The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations has really lived up to the expectations of many fans in terms of quality and entertainment, one can say.
There have been a few controversial moments, but what’s tournament football without a sprinkle of argy-bargy here and there.
Six countries, namely: Nigeria, Morocco, hosts Cameroon, Guinea, Gabon and Burkina Faso have already booked their places in the knockouts.
The first three mentioned have notably been quite impressive, especially in the first two rounds in which case each recorded two victories.
Burkina Faso also punched their ticket to the Round of 16 after concluding their group stage fixtures on Monday evening with a 1-1 draw with Ethiopia. They finish 2nd behind Cameroon in Group A with four points.
Gabon also joined Morocco coming out of Group B as Ghana crashed out.
Away from who and who has made the knockouts, in this article, we will be reliving those jaw-dropping moments that has made this AFCON tournament so so memorable.
Here’s our top five epic moments of AFCON 2021 so far:
6. Nigeria’s win over Egypt
Many – even including ardent fans of the team – had written off Nigeria’s title hopes at the tournament after the rush of bad news detailing withdrawal of their top stars late last month.
The team’s trusted no. 9 Victor Osimhen was one of the first players to give that heartbreak as he called to be excused after contracting Covid-19 in the last week of December, although now he’s tested negative and has even returned to club action.
In-form Watford forward Emmanuel Dennis and Golden Boot winner of the last edition Odion Ighalo also couldn’t make the trip due to issues with their respective clubs.
Missing these calibre of players is enough to do damage to the confidence of any team. Of course, many Nigerian punters were not shy of betting against Nigeria.
But the Naija Spirit has been seen in action in Cameroon.
The Super Eagles were truly outstanding in their tournament opener against the Pharaohs of Egypt who paraded Mohamed Salah.
They won 1-0, but what actually surprised many was the way the Nigerian team thoroughly outplayed their North African opponents for the better part of the game.
5. Ghana’s fight out with Gabon
Ghanaians have not shied away from controversies lately. Of course, if you follow the music scene in Africa you must have already heard of Shatta Wale’s unprovoked beef with Nigerian artistes.
On Friday, their national team went really low against Gabon after the latter scored a late goal to force a 1-1 draw with them. In the closing stages of the match, the team’s captain Andre Ayew had to be held back by a teammate to prevent him from assaulting the coach of the opposition.
But alas, all hell broke lose after the blast of the final whistle. Players from the two teams went against each other with Ghana’s Benjamin Tetteh punching an opponent in the face before the referee could intervene. The player was later handed a three-match suspension for his troubles.
4. Comoros bundling Ghana out
When the Group C pairings were made, everyone tipped Morocco and Ghana to go through. While one of the prediciton came to fruition the other failed.
Ghana, the four-time champions were bundled out of the tournament by a debutants Comoros, it was a great scene at the Roumde Adjia Stadium for non-Black Stars supportes.
Comoros secured a famous 3-2 win against a 10-man Ghana to send the Black Stars crashing out as they only finished with a point.
3. Equatorial Guinea‘s shocking upset against Algeria
Algeria started their title defence on a note not so good last week as they were forced to a goalless draw with Sierra Leone.
But one could still argue that they were quite unlucky as they truly dominated the game, as expected. But Equatorial Guinea threw them completely into crisis mode on Sunday as they pulled a shocking 1-0 win over them.
Definitely, no one could have thought it will be a small team like the Nzalang Nacional that will put an end to the Desert Foxes’ outrageous 35-match unbeaten run. It was a really crazy result!
2. Referee Salima Mukansanga AFCON feat
Rwanda referee Salima Mukansanga becoming the first ever woman referee to officiate a game at the Africa Cup of Nations when she presided over the game between Zimbabwe and Guinea.
She was absolutely in charge and dished out 6 yeallow cards as Zimbabwe beat Guinea 2-1.
1. Referee Sikazwe premature match stoppage
Referee Janny Sizakwe‘s name made rounds on social media last week after his embarrassing mistake of stopping the Group F encounter between Tunisia and Mali at the wrong time TWO TIMES!
The saying goes Once Beaten, Twice Shy, but Sikazwe was having none of that. He initially blew the whistle to signal the end of the match at 85 minutes, but after protests from the Tunisian contingent (Tunisia were trailing 1-0) and some consultations with the match commissioners, he called for the match to continue.
Then again at 89 minutes, he blew again to stop the match despite the fact there were several stoppages in the course of the second half.
Tunisia later appealed to CAF to cancel the result of the game and allow a replay, but the African football governing body declined their request.