The Africa Cup of Nations last-16 line-up is complete following an eventful first-round group stage. Despite something of a slow start, the tournament eventually sparked into life with a flurry of great goals, unforgettable incidents and major shocks like the exit of defending champions Algeria as well as the Black Stars of Ghana.
Here are some of the memorable moments from the first round of games at the African Cup of Nations 2021.
1. Massive referee error
This is probably one of the most unforgettable moments of the AFCON 2021 first round. In Mali’s win against Tunisia, referee Janny Sikazwe blew full time twice; first in the 85th minute then again in the 89th minute.
The Confederation of African Football may have explained that referee Janny Sikazwe was suffering from ‘heat stroke and severe dehydration after his collection of errors overshadowed Mali’s win, but scepticism remains around the continent’s officials.
2. First female Referee to officiate at AFCON
Salima Mukansanga shattered the ceilings when she stepped onto the pitch to officiate the game between Guinea and Zimbabwe at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde. The Rwandan Referee became the first female Referee to officiate an AFCON game.
Salima Mukansaga was also joined by Carine Atemzabong (Cameroon), Fatiha Jermoumi (Morocco), and Bouchra Karboubi (Morocco) to make it the first time ever, an all-women team will officiate a match at an AFCON tournament since the competition was established.
3. Aboubakar or AboubaGOAL?
Vincent Aboubakar is a top form at AFCON 2021, he has bagged 5 goals so far in 3 games. The Cameroonian captain is on course to break the record for the highest goal scored in a single AFCON tournament which is currently held by Ndaye Mulamba from Zaire.
4. Super Eagles clean sweep
The Super Eagles of Nigeria are surprising naysayers at the AFCON 2021 competition. First, they opened their campaign with a victory over Mo Salah and the Pharaohs of Egypt. They went on to thrash Sudan 3-1 before rounding off a 2-0 win against Guinea Bissau.
Nigeria is the only team at the tournament that has won all their group games which have made them top contenders for the trophy.
5. Defending champions eliminated in group stages / Comoros dumps Ghana from the tournament
Algeria fell to Ivory Coast 3-1 in an emphatic result, seeing the Elephants top the group and the Fennec Foxes eliminated at the bottom of the bunch. It was a massively disappointing result for Riyad Mahrez and Algeria, who nearly failed to score a single goal all tournament until Sofiane Bendebka’s consolation with 17 minutes to go against Ivory Coast broke the duck.
The Black Stars of Ghana’s could not shine at the tournament as underdogs Comoros dumped them out of the tournament with a 3-2 win. Before then, Ghana had lost to Morroco and tied with Gabon.
We look forward to a blockbusting round of 16 which would have encounters like Nigeria vs Tunisia and Ivory Coast vs Egypt.