It’s day six of the Africa Cup of Nations and, as the group stages reaches matchday two, a pair of heavyweight clashes headline today’s action.
Africa Cup of Nations acca of the day
Equatorial Guinea vs Guinea-Bissau
These two teams are the rank-outsiders in Group A but, with four best-ranked third-place teams advancing through to the knockout stages, both will feel victory here will given them a great chance of getting through.
Equatorial Guinea already have a point on the board, holding Nigeria to a credible 1-1 draw on Saturday.
Iván Salvador Edú gave his country a shock lead in that one, tapping in from close range, only for the Super Eagles to equalise quite literally straight from kick off.
By full time, Nigeria’s xG was 2.8, to Equatorial Guinea’s measly 0.3, but the points were shared.
The National Thunder have never failed to get out of their group at an Africa Cup of Nations, reaching the quarter-finals in both 2012 and 2022, whilst also featuring in the 2015 semi-finals.
Thus, having drawn their opener, should Juan Michá's team win this one, they’d all but be guaranteed a spot in the round of 16 once again.
Guinea-Bissau meanwhile were involved in the tournament’s opening match, swatted aside 2-0 by hosts Côte d’Ivoire on Saturday night, very rarely threatening the Ivorian goal.
The Djurtus have now qualified for four successive AFCONs, despite never featuring at the finals beforehand, but they’re yet to win a match, ending up with exactly one point during all three previous appearances.
Given that Baciro Candé's team conclude their group stage campaign against Nigeria on Monday, this is certainly their most-realistic opportunity to claim that illusive maiden victory.
That said, Equatorial Guinea are likely to leave Stade Alassane Ouattara with all three points.
Ivory Coast vs Nigeria
Between them, these two West African heavyweights have qualified for nine World Cups and won five Cup of Nations titles, so this huge clash is not to be missed.
Côte d’Ivoire are hosting this year’s edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, doing so for the first time in four decades, and they made a winning start in the tournament’s opening fixture on Saturday night.
Seko Fofana fired home from the edge of the area with just four minutes on the clock, before Jean-Philippe Krasso bundled in, thereby securing a 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau on the cusp of the hour mark.
Les Éléphants won this competition as recently as 2015 but, given that they are hosting, Jean-Louis Gasset’s team are under big pressure to become the first AFCON hosts since 2006 to hoist aloft the trophy.
Ivory Coast undoubtably have the talent to go all the way, but this’ll be a serious test of their credentials.
Nigeria meantime are under more pressure than their fierce rivals, given that they only managed to pick up a point on Sunday.
The Super Eagles were held to a 1-1 draw by Equatorial Guinea, with Victor Osimhen nodding home from close-range mere seconds after the deadlock had been broken up the other end.
By full time, Nigeria’s xG was 2.8, to Equatorial Guinea’s measly 0.3, but José Peseiro’s side were unable to find the winner.
It’s 11 years since the Super Eagles claimed their third AFCON title, also reaching the 2019 semi-finals, and this squad certainly have the attacking talent to go all the way, although they may lack balance overall.
This is certainly one of the most-eagerly anticipated fixtures of the group stages, as these rivals meet at an AFCON for the first time since the 2013 knockout phase; Nigeria winning 2-1 in Rustenburg back then.
However, on Ivorian soil, Nigeria have never won in ten attempts and, right now, les Éléphants appear more well-equipped to pick up three points at Stade Alassane Ouattara.
Egypt vs Ghana
As mentioned in the intro, there’s not one but two heavyweight clashes today, with record seven-times winners Egypt facing four-times African champions Ghana at Stade Félix-Houphouët-Boigny.
Neither made a winning start to this Africa Cup of Nations campaign on Sunday, meaning both are in desperate need of victory this time.
First up at the weekend, Egypt were expected to swat aside Mozambique, given that their opponents hold the record for most AFCON matches played without ever winning one.
Well, it was all going to plan for the Pharaohs when, after just 90 seconds, Mostafa Mohamed broke the deadlock, firing home on the turn.
However, in a real turn up for the books, the underdogs scored not once but twice in two minutes soon after half time, thereby leaving Mozambique on course for an historic win.
It remained 2-1 until, deep into stoppage time, Egypt were awarded a penalty that Mohamed Salah tucked away, thereby sparing his nation’s blushes and salving a draw.
Many, myself included, were tipping Rui Vitória’s team for glory before a ball was kicked, but the Pharaohs will need to exponentially improve if they’re to be picking up an eighth title on 11 February.
Ghana meantime may not even feature in the round of 16, let alone the final, after they were beaten 2-1 by Cape Verde on Sunday night.
Alexander Djiku did head home an equaliser for the Black Stars but, right at the end of injury time, they gifted the Blue Sharks victory, following a calamitous mix-up from goalkeeper Richard Ofori and Mohammed Salisu.
Two years ago, Ghana failed to win a single match at an AFCON for the very first time and, based on their showing on matchday one, Chris Hughton’s team could be set for another ignominious early exit.
The last time these two met at a Cup of Nations, Egypt won 1-0 in Port-Gentil seven years ago, Salah the only scorer, with a similar outcome expected in Abidjan.