The Flames light up at Afcon

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Gabadinho Mhango is leading Malawi to the promised land at Afcon. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu / BackpagePix
Gabadinho Mhango is leading Malawi to the promised land at Afcon. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu / BackpagePix

SPORT


Southern Africa might have a team in the knockout stage of the Afcon tournament after all.

Malawi could progress to the last 16 as one of the best four third-placed sides, as they and Cape Verde are leading this side race as per the rankings across the six groups.

Just like Bafana Bafana did at the 2019 edition in Egypt, three points could be enough to secure a place in the knockout stage.

Orlando Pirates striker Gabadinho Mhango provided a glimmer of hope for Cosafa, courtesy of his brace for Malawi in their 2-1 win over Zimbabwe on Friday night.

The result all but eliminated their regional rivals from the competition.

READ: Cameroon makes Afcon knockout stage – who is likely to follow them?

Going into the final round of matches on Tuesday afternoon, the Flames of Malawi are placed third in group B with three points, behind Senegal and Guinea, who each have four points.

Another Cosafa affiliate, the Comoros – who are tournament debutants – are also out of contention after the islanders suffered their second defeat in the competition with a 2-0 loss to Morocco on Friday.

The top two teams from the six groups, along with the best third-placed sides, will advance to the knockout stage that gets under way next Sunday.

In their final group matches on Tuesday, Malawi will face Senegal, Zimbabwe will wrap up their campaign against Guinea while the Comoros will meet Ghana.

SOCCER ROUND-UP

TODAY’s FIXTURES
Afcon
Gambia vs Mali, 3pm
Ivory Coast vs Sierra Leone,  6pm
Tunisia vs Mauritania, 6pm
Algeria vs Equatorial Guinea, 9pm

Tomorrow
Afcon
Burkina Faso vs Ethiopia, 6pm
Cape Verde vs Cameroon, 6pm

Tuesday
Afcon
Zimbabwe vs Guinea, 6pm
Malawi vs Senegal, 6pm
Gabon vs Morocco, 9pm
Ghana vs Comoros, 9pm

Wednesday
Afcon
Egypt vs Sudan, 9pm
Guinea-Bissau vs Nigeria, 9pm

Thursday
Afcon

Ivory Coast vs Algeria, 6pm

Sierra Leone vs Equatorial Guinea, 6pm

Mali vs Mauritania, 9pm
Gambia vs Tunisia, 9pm

Premier League
West Ham vs Leeds, 4pm
Liverpool vs Brentford, 4pm
Tottenham Hotspur vs Arsenal, 6.30pm

Malawi began their campaign in Cameroon with a defeat when they lost 1-0 to Guinea on Monday, the same day the Zimbabwean Warriors went down 1-0 to Senegal, while the Comoros were beaten by Gabon by the same score.

All but two group winners will face the third best-ranked teams in the last 16, and Malawi might follow pool fellows Senegal and Guinea to the knockout round.

The Flames, who were eliminated in the first round at the 1984 and 2010 editions, are likely to face group C winners, possibly Morocco, or group D winners in a pool that features Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau.

So far, hosts Cameroon, who hammered Ethiopia 4-1 on Thursday, and the Atlas Lions of Morocco headed into the weekend having already qualified for the knockout stage.

Ghana faces an early exit unless they beat the Comoros in their final pool match on Tuesday.

READ: Tunisia protest dismissed amid claims that erratic Afcon ref Sizakwe suffered sunstroke

The spotlight will now shift to today’s fixtures in group E and group F where top guns Ivory Coast and defending champions Algeria, as well as Tunisia and Mali, will be bidding to secure berths in the last 16.

The knockout line-up is likely to produce fixtures pitting Algeria/Ivory Coast against Nigeria/Egypt or Mali/Tunisia against Algeria/Ivory Coast.

There is also a question of who the giant-slayers of this Afcon will be after Madagascar, on their debut in Egypt in 2019, went all the way to the quarterfinals.

Indications are that this year’s debutants Gambia could well be the team to beat the odds in Cameroon.

The Scorpions, as the small west African national team are affectionately called, stung the favourites to win their group during the qualifiers ahead of Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.

It seems the fairy tale is not about to end after Gambia won their Afcon tournament opener against Mauritania on Wednesday.

Mali could be in for a surprise if they underestimate the Scorpions in their fixture in Limbe this afternoon.


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Daniel Mothowagae 

Deputy sports editor

+27 11 713 9001
Daniel.Mothowagae@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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