The U20 AFCON ended its first round on Monday, February 27. Before the start of the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 2, Sport News Africa gives you the highlights of the group phase.
Senegal received three out of three
Senegal flew through the first round of the competition. The Cubs are the only ones to have won their three group matches. First against Nigeria (1-0) to smoothly kick start. Then, a more convincing victory against Mozambique (3-0) before finishing in beauty against Egypt, host country (4-0). They left no crumbs in group A. After three finals lost successively in 2015, 2017 and 2019, the Senegalese want to finally get their first star in the competition and thus continue their harvest of titles, all competitions included, after having won the AFCON 2021, the African Cup of Beach Soccer and the CHAN 2022.
Scorpions with a venomous streak
Gambia is the other scarecrow of this competition for the moment. The young Scorpions have won all their matches in Group C. Successes against Tunisia (1-0), Zambia (2-0) and Benin (1-0). Another common point with the Senegalese, the iron defense. They have not taken any goal in this group phase.
Third at the last U20 AFCON in Mauritania (the best ranking in its history with the 2007 edition), Gambia wants to repeat the feat. Moreover, its coach Abdoulie Bojang is ready to make history. "We know the records, but we are here to set our own records both as individuals and as a nation. As a coach, I also want to leave a legacy. I want to make my resume. I want to show the whole country what I can do (...). There is no pressure on me, but I am trying to establish a legacy and set my own record as a coach," he said, as reported by Cafonline.
A host country absent
Egypt had a great opportunity to host and take. But the young Pharaohs left their tournament with heads down. A small point taken against Mozambique in the opening game (0-0) and two defeats including a demolition against Senegal. Worse, the Egyptians have not scored any goal in the competition. We are not far from the biggest flop in the history of the host countries of the African Cup of Under 20.
With only three groups of four teams, it was necessary to find two other qualifiers in addition to the first two of each group. We have the two best thirds who will make the quarter. If South Sudan did the job in group B (4 pts), Benin had a close call. They finished second best third with only two points in group C. In addition, they scored only one goal in three games. Not sure that this is a reason for optimism before facing Senegal in the quarter-finals, which has not conceded any goals in this tournament.
Luck and bad luck
If in group B, the qualifiers were determined on the field, the first one was known... thanks to luck. At the end of the three days, Uganda and Congo were in the lead and tied (5 pts). CAF had to draw lots to determine the leader of this group. And it is the Ugandans who won the toss.
The complete table of the quarters
After the last group matches of Monday, February 27, we now know the complete table of the quarterfinals. Senegal leader of group A with 9 points will face Benin, second best third with 2 points. Uganda, having finished second in group B with 5 points, falls on Nigeria (6 points). The Flying Eagles finished behind Senegal in group A. These first two quarterfinals will be played on Thursday, March 2.
For the other two matches of the next round, Gambia, leader of group C with 9 points, will cross the sword with South Sudan who took the status of best 3rd of the tournament with 4 points. Tunisia (2nd, 4 points, group C) will play against Congo of group B with 5 points. These two matches are scheduled for Friday, March 3.