AFCON 2023: Underdogs Rule at Africa Cup of Nations As Ghana, Egypt, and Nigeria Struggle in Openers

AFCON 2023: Underdogs Rule at Africa Cup of Nations As Ghana, Egypt, and Nigeria Struggle in Openers

Joel Reyes
updated at January 15, 2024 at 12:42 PM
In this article:
CAF Africa Cup of Nations logo
Victor Osimhen logo
V. Osimhen
Napoli logoFNigeria logo
Nigeria logo
Egypt logo
Mohamed Salah logo
M. Salah
Liverpool logoFEgypt logo
Mohammed Kudus logo
West Ham United logoMGhana logo
Ghana logo
Mozambique logo
Equatorial Guinea logo
Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea
Cape Verde logo
Cape Verde
Cape Verde
  • Nigeria, Egypt, and Ghana failed to register wins in their opening AFCON 2023 matches
  • Nigeria and Egypt avoided upsets with draws against Equatorial Guinea and Mozambique
  • Ghana crashed to the bottom of Group B with a loss to Cape Verde in their opening match

There’s no sure thing in the Africa Cup of Nations anymore.

Day 2 of the 2023 AFCON proved that with Nigeria, Egypt, and Ghana failing to beat lower-ranked opposition in their opening games.

Sports Brief looks at how Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, and Cape Verde shocked the world with their performances at AFCON 2023 on Sunday.

AFCON, Africa Cup of Nations, Victor Osimhen, Mohamed Salah, AFCON 2023, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana
Cape Verde celebrate after their win over Ghana at the 2023 AFCON. Image: SIA KAMBOU.
Source: Getty Images

Nigeria settle for draw vs. Equatorial Guinea

Nigeria entered the 2023 AFCON with high expectations, with CAF Player of the Year, Victor Osimhen, leading their squad in this year’s tournament.

Their campaign got off to a horrible start, though, with Iban Salvador opening the scoring for Equatorial Guinea against the run of play in the 36th minute.

Osimhen spared the Super Eagles’ blushes, immediately scoring an equaliser for Nigeria with a header in the 38th minute.

The Napoli striker had an opportunity to give Nigeria all three points in their opening group match when he was sent through by Fulham’s Alex Iwobi 14 minutes from time.

He wasted the chance, though, as Nigeria settled for a 1-1 draw.

It was a spectacular result for Equatorial Guinea, who are 46 places below the Super Eagles in the world rankings.

It’s back to the drawing board for Nigeria, who trail Ivory Coast by two points in Group A heading into Matchday 2.

Egypt avoid upset loss with late penalty

Nigeria’s fright against Equatorial Guinea was nothing compared to the one Egypt experienced in their game against Mozambique.

The seven-time AFCON champions looked like they were on their way to an easy victory after Mostafa Mohamed opened the scoring in the second minute.

Mozambique turned the game on its head in the second half, scoring twice in a three-minute span to grab a shock lead over the Pharaohs.

Witi grabbed the equaliser with a near-post header in the 55th minute before Clesio gave the Mambas a 2-1 advantage with a composed finish in the 58th minute.

Mozambique’s dream of recording their first-ever AFCON win was shattered, though, in second-half injury time when Domingos Macandza was adjudged to have fouled Mohamed inside the box.

Salah salvaged a 2-2 draw for the Pharaohs, netting a penalty in the seventh minute of added time.

The stalemate was still a fantastic result for the Mambas, who are ranked 78 places below Egypt in the world rankings at No. 111, per the BBC.

Ghana's woes continue with Cape Verde loss

Ghana entered the 2023 AFCON looking to make amends after suffering an embarrassing group stage exit at the 2021 edition.

History repeated itself on Sunday, though, as the Black Stars lost their opening group match yet again, this time against Cape Verde.

Garry Rodrigues broke Ghana’s hearts with a goal in the 92nd minute, handing the islanders a dramatic 2-1 win.

It was a disappointing result for the Black Stars, who are 12 places ahead of Cape Verde in the world rankings.

They struggled without Mohammed Kudus, who missed the game due to a hamstring injury.

They find themselves at the bottom of Group B with the loss. Cape Verde are on top with three points, while Egypt and Mozambique are level at one point following their draw.

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Ghana fans blast controversial VAR call

Sports Brief recently reported on Ghanaian fans fuming after their loss to Cape Verde.

They argued that the Black Stars had a perfectly good goal disallowed.

Majeed Ashimeru's potent strike was disallowed by the referee following a VAR check.

Joel Reyes photo
Joel Reyes
Joel Reyes is a sports editor at with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines. He has eight years of work experience in sports writing.