By Gbemidepo Popoola
Game day 2 of the Africa Cup of Nations ongoing in Cote d’Ivoire looked quite straightforward on paper with the teams set to challenge one another for their first group games seems quite a mismatch at first sight but, proved anything but that, after the blast of the whistle signaling kick off.
The games kicked off with the most populous African nation of over 200 million people, and one of Africa’s finest powerhouses on the continent, Nigeria dropping points against minnows Equatorial Guinea, with a population of about 1.6 million, in what on paper is a mismatch.
Iban Salvador scored a curler for the opener, which startled the more experienced Super Eagles into an immediate response from the restart, as reigning Africa’s best player Victor Osimhen converted via a header after some fine work from ex-Everton man Ademola Lookman.
The 1-1 draw above signalled the completion of round 1 games in Group A which has left the group wide open, as hosts Cote d’Ivoire defeated Guinea Bissau on the opening night.
In Group B,
Egypt 2-2 Mozambique
Egypt also coming from behind to claim a late hard fought 2-2 draw against minnows Mozambique through a Mohammed Salah brace.
The Liverpool forward converted his penalty kick deep into added time to salvage a point for the Egyptians.
It was an indicator of what was to come later on in the day and the group, as it was a day for the underdogs.
Ghana 1-2 Cape Verde
Ghana’s 1-2 loss against Cape Verde had been coming from the blast of the whistle as the Capeverdians were on the front foot throughout without putting in a foot wrong.
Albeit the “Blue Shark’s” Loss of concentration in defence for the “Black Stars” Leveller, from a corner on the 56th minute by Dijku. It was a performance that reminded neutrals that there are no more minnows in African Football.
The Black Stars’ loss against the Capeverdians has put them at a disadvantage at such an early stage, and their greatest undoing would be not getting a point against their next opponent Egypt on Thursday, as a loss might just be enough to send them packing out of the tournament.
In local parlance “Jungle don dey mature” (There are no small teams anymore), the moment teams such as Nigeria, Egypt and most notably Ghana recognize this and sit up, the better their chances of qualification to the next round.
Nigeria’s unofficial motto for the year 2024 “No Gree For Anybody”, can not be truer than what was witnessed on the field of play.