Cameroon survived an early scare from Burkina Faso as they battled back from a goal down to win the opening game of the 2021 African Cup of Nations at the 60,000-seater Olembé Stadium.
The country was three years behind schedule in hosting the AFCON after missing out in 2019 to inadequacy and in 2021 to COVID-19 but all that was quickly banished as the 50-year wait for a continental showpiece in Cameroon went off to a flying start. With fireworks and theatrics helping the central African nation to welcome the rest of the continent to the showpiece, football matters didn’t take long to set the tone.
It took just 45 seconds into the game for the Stallions to register their first yellow card when Steve Yago made a rash challenge on a Cameroonian player and was only lucky not to have had his marching orders.
Cameroon hardly established dominance in front of the ecstatic and energetic home crowd in the brand new stadium, as Burkina Faso grew in confidence. The Burkinabes’ impressive wave of attack paid dividends on the 24th minute when 25-year old midfielder, Gustavo Sangare raised the curtains at the Paul Biya Stadium, Olembe after an error by Andre Onana, in goal for Cameroon.
The 5-time champions restored parity in the 40th minute from the spot after a reckless challenge by Burkina Faso captain, Bertrand Traore on Cameroon midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa. Centre referee Mustapha Ghorbal was informed by the VAR of an infringement on Anguissa in the box after initially failing to spot the foul, and this ensured Cameroon got a penalty, which was converted by skipper on the night, Vincent Aboubakar.
Aboubakar got another opportunity to convert from the spot after another reckless tackle saw Burkina Faso concede a second penalty to Cameroon. He took it coolly like the first, and put himself in early contention for the golden boot.
The hosts hardly got into another gear in the second half but had better control of the game and rewarded the patience of their fans with an opening day victory.
Cape Verde Defeat Ten-man Ethiopia
Cape Verde is not up to 0.5% of Ethiopia’s population but a detail like this is hardly important in football. A country’s football team is as good as the quality it produces from its numbers and not by its size.
The Blue Sharks were the dominant side for large spells as they defeated an Ethiopian team that had to play with ten men for at least 78 minutes.
Defender Yared Belay received his marching orders in the 12th minute as he stopped a goal-bound move from a Cape Verde attacker. The numerical disadvantage ensured the kings of the Horn of Africa had a mountain to climb if they would achieve anything from the game.
Cape Verde scored what proved to be the winner in the 46th minute through attacker, Julio Tavares. The goal was enough to help the archipelago nation sit second behind hosts Cameroon after match day one.
Games on Monday will see 2019 finalists Senegal take on the Warriors of Zimbabwe. Guinea, holding the warning of their interim President, Mamady Doumbouya will take on the Flames of Malawi and in the star match of the day, Morocco will look to banish the memories of an embarrassing outing in 2019 as they take on the Black Stars of Ghana.
Gabon will face newbies, Comoros in the last game of the day as they hope not to get shocked by the largely-French Comoran team.
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