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Sports News of Friday, 5 July 2019


Grading all 24 AFCON teams after the group stage


Showed little of the offensive flair they demonstrated in qualifying, and were sent packing with zero points and zero goals from their three Group B matches.

At least they held on for over 75 minutes in both of their opening games, with two resolute displays, but didn’t utilise their attacking talent.

Grade: E


Looked good going forward—at times—in their East African derby defeat by Kenya, but still fell to a 3-2 loss that meant they were the first team eliminated.

Their limitations were exposed in defeats by Senegal and Algeria, and they rarely looked ready for this level.

Grade: D


It doesn’t look like too many lessons have been learned from Guinea-Bissau’s maiden Afcon appearance in 2017, although they did take a point from a low-key stalemate with Benin in Ismailia on matchday two.

Grade: D


They were still in the running until matchday three, but offered little going forward and got their only goal through a goalkeeping error in their opener against Tunisia.

Failure to beat new boys Mauritania cost them.

Grade: D


The Carthage Eagles have snuck into the Round of 16, but they’ve been among the under-performers of the opening round.

Despite being pooled into a favourable group, they failed to win any games, and while they’re still unbeaten, they’ve lacked cohesion going forward and their typical defensive rigour.

Grade: C-

Secured East African bragging rights with a 3-2 victory over Tanzania, including a magnificent individual display by Michael Olunga, but appeared overawed by the occasion as they collapsed against Senegal in their final group game.

Injuries are a mitigating factor, as some key defensive losses ahead of—and during—the tournament denied them one of their key strengths.

Grade: C


Held the mighty Morocco for 89 minutes following a typically resolute display before Itamunua Keimuine’s unfortunate own goal, and gave South Africa as good as they got before succumbing to Bongani Zungu’s second-half effort.

In their final match—against the Ivory Coast—they ought to have taken the lead twice only for poor finishing to let them down.

They’ll take many positives from their showings in Egypt.

Grade: C


The Warriors will leave with regrets after a campaign in which they appeared to steadily deteriorate.

A decision to strike during training and threaten to boycott the opener against Egypt may have affected the focus, while they were badly hurt by injuries to two goalkeepers and Marvelous Nakamba.

They’ll regret taking one point, rather than four, from their opening two matches.

Grade: C


The Super Eagles have progressed to the next round, and did so by keeping clean sheets in 1-0 victories over Burundi and Guinea.

However, the football has been dull and uninspired, and they endured a humiliating 2-0 defeat by Madagascar in their final group game.

Grade: C


Considering they’re reigning champions, Cameroon have made hard work of a fairly straightforward Group F.

They’ve scored twice in three games—both goals coming in the space of three minutes against Guinea-Bissau—and they were fortunate to escape with a point against Ghana.

Clarence Seedorf said that a team who are thinking of winning the tournament cannot think about draws, but the Indomitable Lions have had two of them.

Grade: C


They fell at the first hurdle, but Mauritania won a few admirers with their strong, adventurous, and occasionally naive performances at the Nations Cup.

They were smashed 4-1 by Mali in a wonderfully open debut, but tightened up for the 0-0 draw with Angola.

Their final match, a 0-0 draw against Tunisia, was one of the country’s finest footballing results, and in truth, it’s a game they should have won.

Grade: C+


Missed Sadio Mane for their opener, but still eased past a ropey Tanzania side, only to offer little going forward as they were defeated by Algeria in their second game.

They found a measure of fluidity in the second half against Kenya, easing to a 3-0 win after being denied for an hour.

However, Senegal haven’t truly looked close to their billing of potential Afcon favourites.

Grade: B-

Ivory Coast

Things haven’t clicked as had been expected, with Jean Michael Seri dropped from the starting XI after—again—failing to bring his playmaking qualities to the continental high table.

Ibrahim Kamara doesn’t inspire confidence with his selection decisions, and the Elephants have only shown anything close to their top form against a Namibian side falling apart at the seams.

They were outclassed in their heavyweight meeting with Morocco.

Grade: B-

South Africa

Bafana Bafana did what they needed to do; beat Namibia, and keep things tight-ish against Morocco and Ivory Coast.

While the football going forward hasn’t got pulses racing, they would have taken a point from Morocco in their final game had it not been for Mbark Boussoufa’s 90th-minute winner.

Grade: B-

Democratic Republic of Congo

Appeared to be heading home after their opening two matches, in which they were tw
ice beaten 2-0 and were outplayed, outthought and outfought by Uganda.

However, a resounding 4-0 victory over Zimbabwe in their final group game erased the previous memories and took them into the Last 16 in some style.

They’re still alive, and that’s certainly worth something!

Grade: B


Struggled at the back against a physical Benin side, but enjoyed the better of their draw with Cameroon before seeing off Guinea-Bissau to qualify.

There are still concerns about the defence—despite two clean sheets—while the injury absence of Christian Atsu is a loss.

However, their experience has told as they’ve got over the line, and the Ayew brothers are on song.

Grade: B


They haven’t looked anything close to their best without a fully fit Naby Keita.

The Syli Nationale demonstrated some defensive vulnerabilities in an opening 2-2 draw against debutants Madagascar, but were then devoid of ideas as they were seen off by the Super Eagles in Alexandria.

They qualified with a 2-0 victory over ten-man Burundi, but don’t expect them to go much further.

Grade: B


They haven’t won a match, but did enough to claim a draw against 10-men Ghana, and remained resolute and organised to hold Guinea-Bissau and Cameroon to goalless draws.

They’re organised, and will be a tricky opponent for Morocco in the next round, but an inability to break down the Djurtus highlights their limitations.

Grade: B+


Qualified from a tricky Group A, and really caught the eye in their opener against the DRC, even though there were mitigating circumstances.

However, they were fortunate to escape with a point against Zimbabwe in their second match—they had Denis Onyango to thank for that—and were let down by poor finishing in their final game against Egypt.

Grade: B+


Took maximum nine points from a tricky group, and didn’t concede a goal. It’s perhaps to their credit that Egypt didn’t need to be in top form to progress, but they were troubled by the Democratic Republic of Congo during the first half of their second game, and haven’t demonstrated the fluidity of the other title favourites.

Grade: A-


The Eagles have gone under the radar somewhat, but they’ve taken seven points from their three group-stage games, topping Group E in some style.

Their 4-1 victory over Mauritania was one of the performances of the tournament, while they demonstrated another side of their game in the 1-1 draw with Tunisia in Suez.

Grade: A


Have, at times, looked like the complete package, although it cannot be overlooked that they needed late, late goals to secure victories against limited Namibia and South Africa sides.

Most impressive was their 1-0 victory over the Ivory Coast, where Youssef En-Nesyri and Nordin Amrabat were excellent, and the Atlas Lions progress without conceding a single goal.

Grade: A

Cruised past Kenya and Tanzania—killing both matches in the first half—and also beat fancied Senegal in the battle of the Group C heavyweights.

Worryingly, for their title rivals, they look like they have another gear or two.

Grade: A


Nothing was expected of the debutants, but they ultimately topped Group B with seven points, beating Nigeria in the process.

They appeared to solve the defensive failings that haunted them in their opener, and have looked surprisingly comfortable at this level.

Grade: A

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