Nigeria and Egypt are the first countries to make it to the AFCON 2019 Round of 16 after wins against Guinea and DR. Congo respectively.
Nigeria beat Guinea 1-0 early on Wednesday, while Egypt won 2-0 over DR Congo later in the day.
Nigeria first to qualify
But Nigeria became the first country to make it to the knockout rounds as Kenneth Omeruo’s well –placed header from a Moses Simon’s corner kick earned all three points against Guinea at the Alexandria Stadium.
A below –par first half gave way to a lively second half, during which Odion Ighalo, who earned all the three points for Nigeria after coming on as a substitute against Burundi on Saturday, could have scored if the Guinean defenders had not checkmated Ahmed Musa’s pass from a swift counter-attack, and Alex Iwobi forced a smart one-handed save from Guinea’s goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone from a snapshot.
In the beginning, the Syli Nationale were more business-like, working three shots on target including one that rattled Daniel Akpeyi, before Moses Simon fired wide over the bar when he freed himself from the right.
Coach Gernot Rohr rested captain Mikel Obi and William Ekong, with Chukwueze also benched for Simon and Ighalo starting in place of Paul Onuachu. Yet, the Super Eagles did not look intensely creative in the first half hour and it was largely the organization of Kenneth Omeruo, Leon Balogun, Chidozie Awaziem and Ola Aina at the back that ensured a barren scoreline at the interval.
Iwobi had movement and endeavour but gave the ball away severally, and Ighalo must have punched himself after side-netting with Musa waiting eagerly to raze the net from close range in the 32nd minute. Earlier, Ighalo had, with a poor first touch, fumbled a good pass from Musa after the latter’s run down the left, and Iwobi also wasted another excellent pass by the pacy deputy captain.
The Super Eagles need only a draw from their last match of the group phase against Madagascar on Sunday to finish top of the group and remain in Alexandria for their Round of 16 fixture.
Zimbabwe, Uganda draw
Uganda missed their chance to qualify for the knockout round for the first time since 1978 after they were forced to a draw, 1-1 by Zimbabwe.
The Cranes scored first through Emmanuel Okwi but Zimbabwe equalized five minutes to halftime through star forward Khama Billiat. The Warriors now have just one point after losing their opening game to hosts Egypt.
But, they will rue two brilliant scoring opportunities missed in the second half.
Skipper Knowledge Musona missed a sitter with a gaping goalmouth five minutes after the break after Ovidy Karuru’s cross was deflected to his path.
In the 68th minute, substitute Evans Rusike saw his point-blank effort cleared off the line beautifully by Uganda keeper Denis Onyango after the initial save had slipped under his arms.
The Cranes got into the lead 11 minutes into the game when Okwi scored his second goal of the tournament with a tap in from close range after Zimbabwe keeper George Chigova spilled a shot from Abdu Lumala.
But that was as much it from Uganda who were forced to play on the back foot for most of the half.
In the 22nd minute, Musona had a chance when he was picked out by a cross from the left before controlling and turning, but his shot was off target. Four minutes later, Billiat had an effort with a low shot which went wide.
Zimbabwe continued prodding into the Ugandan half, trying to open up their defense. In the 32nd minute, Musona whipped in an inviting cross from a freekick, but the ball evaded everyone in the box and rolled wide.
The Warriors finally got their goal five minutes to the break off some beautiful team play. Musona chested the ball through for Karuru who raced down on the left before picking out Billiat with a low cross that the Kaizer Chiefs forward flicked ahead of Onyango.
In the second half, just after Zimbabwe had missed two great chances, Uganda had their own open chance go begging when Patrick Kaddu volleyed over, also with the goal at his mercy after the keeper parried Karuru’s cross into his path.
With the clock ticking, Uganda coach Sebastien Desabre pulled off striker Faruku Miya for defender Timothy Awany to guard the point.
Uganda next play Egypt on Sunday whilst Zimbabwe squares DR Congo in the final Group A matches.
Sallah scores, Egypt are through
Goals from skipper Ahmed Elmohamady and the sensational Mohammed Salah saw Egypt take maximum points to move top of Group A with six points.
After Nigeria beat Guinea 1-0 in Alexandria to go through, the host nation picked a cue and progressed. DR Congo on their end are staring at a possible early exit from the tournament after losing a second consecutive game.
Salah lifted the roof off the Cairo International Stadium with one of his trademark finishes two minutes to the break as the home side finished off the half in an emphatic fashion, doubling their tally and sitting pretty on top of the tie against the Leopards.
DR Congo would feel aggrieved as they headed to the break 2-0 down having hit the woodwork twice. In the 10th minute, skipper Marcel Tisserand extended a leg to tap the ball goal-ward off a corner but it came against the crossbar.
Four minutes before Salah scored the second, Jonathan Bolingi Mpangi saw his looping header from the edge of the six-yard box go beyond Mohamed Elshenawy but against the crossbar.
Save for those two scares, Egypt was more or less top of the proceedings, powered by a full to capacity stadium. Salah came close in the 4th minute when he picked the ball inside the box but his shot was deflected for a corner.
Egypt broke the deadlock in the 24th minute, skipper Elmohamady scoring his third goal in six games for the Pharaohs, tapping the ball home after the Congolese defense failed to deal with a Salah cross.
Salah himself forced DR Congo keeper Ley Matampi to a full stretch save on the half-hour mark off a free kick. He finally got his goal in the 43rd minute after wrapping his favorite left foot well to curl the ball beyond Matampi.
Salah had been released with a delightful through pass by Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan who had dribbled from all the way back in his half.
Though Congo came back a determined side in the second half with Cedric Bakambu and Yannick Bollasie having scoring chances, Egypt held on for the win.
Egypt finish their group stage matches against Egypt on Sunday while DR Congo face Zimbabwe at the 30th of June Stadium.