Algeria, the reigning champion of AFCON, was considered one of the top contenders for the title. However, Riyad Mahrez and his teammates had a forgettable tournament. They started the group stage with a draw against unknown Sierra Leone before suffering a defeat against Equatorial Guinea, ending their 35-match unbeaten streak on all fronts.
Heading into their final group stage match, Algeria still had a chance to advance if they could defeat group leaders Ivory Coast. However, Mahrez and his teammates continued to show signs of weakness. Within the first hour of the match, the reigning champions conceded three goals, scored by Franck Kessie (22′), Ibrahim Sangare (39′), and Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe with a stunning solo effort (54′).
Despite Algeria’s efforts, they could only manage a consolation goal by Sofiane Bendebka. This was their only goal in the tournament, and they bowed out of the competition at the bottom of the group with only 1 point, fewer than the unknown Sierra Leone (2 points).
In Group E, Ivory Coast secured first place with an impressive 3-1 victory, accumulating 7 points. Meanwhile, Equatorial Guinea secured their spot in the next round as the second-place team with 2 wins and 1 defeat.
Another group that played last night was Group F. Another strong team, Tunisia, suffered a disappointing defeat in their high-stakes match against Gambia. Ablie Jallow’s 90+3-minute goal sealed Gambia’s victory, securing their first-place finish in the group, level on points with group leader Mali but with an inferior goal difference. Fortunately for Tunisia, they managed to advance to the Round of 16 as one of the four best third-place teams with the highest points tally.
At this stage, AFCON 2021 has determined the 16 teams for the Round of 16, and fans have already witnessed an early final as Ivory Coast clashes with Egypt.
The Round of 16 matchups:
Burkina Faso vs Gabon
Nigeria vs Tunisia
Senegal vs Cape Verde
Mali vs Equatorial Guinea
Guinea vs Gambia
Cameroon vs Comoros
Ivory Coast vs Egypt
Morocco vs Malawi