Abidjan — Egypt face an anxious wait on the extent of Mohamed Salah’s injury sustained in a lively 2-2 draw with Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) on Thursday, while Nigeria defeated hosts Ivory Coast 1-0.
Mohammed Kudus struck twice for Ghana on his tournament debut but record seven-time champions Egypt rescued a point with goals from Omar Marmoush and Mostafa Mohamed after Salah went off late in the first half in Abidjan.
“We don’t know yet what is the problem (with Salah). I hope not a big problem. It is too early to say something,” said Egypt boss Rui Vitoria.
After twice falling behind at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium, Egypt showed great resilience without their superstar forward and took advantage of two Ghana mistakes to earn another point following an opening 2-2 draw with Mozambique in Group B.
The Black Stars, who have now won just one of their past 11 AFCON games, are in danger of a second consecutive group-stage exit despite the return of Kudus from injury after a surprise 2-1 loss to Cape Verde in their first outing.
“Of course it’s very frustrating because I felt we deserved to win the game,” said Ghana coach Chris Hughton.
“The dressing room is a very disappointed dressing room at the moment because this was a very good opportunity for us to get three points.”
11 goals 😅
Today’s games saw a lot ⚽️#TotalEnergiesAFCON2023 pic.twitter.com/9K5AZZtB12
— CAF (@CAF_Online) January 19, 2024
Egypt are only one point better off and with still work to do in their final game, but the immediate concern for the Pharaohs will be the health of Liverpool striker Salah.
In Group A, Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong converted a penalty 10 minutes into the second half to secure his team victory over Ivory Coast after a foul on Victor Osimhen was picked up following a VAR check.
The Super Eagles then held on in front of a frenzied crowd at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium in Abidjan to claim their first win after beginning their AFCON bid with a 1-1 draw against Equatorial Guinea.
“Our team was better and for that we won, but Ivory Coast is a good team. They lost the match because that can happen,” said Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro.
“Today I said to my players it is normal that you score at least one goal, so if you don’t suffer a goal, you win.”
Unlikely hat-trick hero
Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea are locked on four points at the top of the section, with Ivory Coast behind them on three points and Guinea-Bissau eliminated after losing both games so far.
Nigeria must simply avoid defeat against Guinea-Bissau – beaten 4-2 by Equatorial Guinea earlier – to ensure a top-two finish.
The fact that the four best third-placed sides in six groups will all advance to the last 16 leaves margin for error, but Ivory Coast must beat Equatorial Guinea in their last match on Monday to guarantee progress.
Emilio Nsue scored the tournament’s first hat-trick since 2008 as Equatorial Guinea beat Guinea-Bissau to close in on a place in the last 16.
Nsue opened the scoring midway through the first half before a sparse crowd and added two more goals in the second half in a remarkable performance.
First TotalEnergies AFCON hattrick since 2008 ✅
First TotalEnergies AFCON hattrick in Equatorial Guinea’s history ✅
Oldest player to ever score a TotalEnergies AFCON hattrick ✅
Ladies and gentlemen, Emilio Nsue López. 🎩🇬🇶#TotalEnergiesAFCON2023 pic.twitter.com/VYClVfeJ7u
— Total Energies AFCON (@TotalAFCON2023) January 18, 2024
The result leaves Equatorial Guinea requiring a point against Ivory Coast next week to be certain of advancing from Group A.
Captain Nsue, 34, is the first player to score three times in one game at the Cup of Nations since Soufiane Alloudi did so for Morocco in a 5-1 win over Namibia in 2008 in Ghana.
“I feel very happy. I knew this could be one of my last Africa Cups. This is my third, so I came here mentally very strong, I trusted in myself, and I am playing very well,” Nsue said.
“I know I have the quality to do a good job. I just want to continue and score more goals, and I hope to be top scorer ahead of all the superstars who are here.”
Follow African Insider on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
For more African news, visit Africaninsider.com