Africa’s international break – the friendlies and 2022 Africa Cup of Nations

In the shadow of more shocking results in World Cup qualifying, many African nations suited up aiming to get a couple of friendly wins. France grabbed a late winner against the Ivory Coast. Burkina Faso’s match against Kosovo was a little less even.

Meanwhile, smaller nations played each other for a chance at competing in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. 2021 Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals The Gambia and Chad battled in an exciting, tight match. Lesotho rebounded from a disappointing first leg to score three in a lopsided match up with Seychelles.

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The big friendlies

In a lopsided friendly that surprised many African football analysts, Kosovo dominated African heavyweights Burkina Faso, beating them five to none. Although the game was still close at halftime, with Kosovo leading just 2-0, the gate blew open with a barrage of scoring in the first half. The heavy defeat was helped by Bryan Dabo’s ejection. Kosovo scored three more in the second half to hand Les Etalones one of their biggest defeats to date.

One of the most high-profile games saw Arsenal outcast Nicolas Pepe, who has scored just thrice for the Gunners, chip in a vital score for the Ivory Coast against reigning world champions France. Les Bleus, who hoisted the Nations League Cup to avenge a surprising exit in the European Championships, did not let the Ivory Coast rest on their lead. Olivier Giroud scored to make the game 1-1, and from there, each side had a multitude of chances to score. Reims left-back Konan nearly beat Hugo Lloris for a goal, and France wreaked havoc on the flanks. Yet it was in-demand midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni’s score that put the game away in the intense friendly. Although the Ivory Coast may feel they could have walked away with a win, it is a positive result to rest on as the summer nears.

Burkina Faso’s March break only got worse, as European giants Belgium easily dismantled Burkina Faso. Club Brugge midfielder Hans Vanaken knocked in a goal in twelve minutes, and the day did not get any easier for Burkina Faso. Les Etalones saw Brighton star Leandro Trossard score Belgium’s second in just two more minutes. Belgian legend Christian Benteke rounded out the scoring with a third goal for Belgium, as a frazzled Burkina Faso side struggled to start their offense.

It was a similar story for the Ivory Coast. Rebounding from a close loss against reigning Coupe de la Monde winners France, they were swiftly swept away by the Three Lions. Ollie Watkins, continuing his terrific form for Aston Villa, netted in the 30th minute. An ejection for Serge Aurier hurt the Ivory Coast even more, as Raheem Sterling scored before the first half ended. The Three Lions’ one-man advantage helped them quell any chances of scores, and Tyrone Mings added salt to an already festering wound by scoring England’s third. The crushing defeat shows that the Ivory Coast has some real work to do going into 2023, as it attempts to lift the Africa Cup of Nations trophy for the third time on home soil.

Does the Bafana Bafana see Kylian Mbappe in their nightmares? No one would blame them for it. The superstar winger terrorized South Africa everywhere on the pitch, performing nutmegs, stepovers, and, of course, goals. Paris Saint-Germain’s starlet scored in the first half, pouncing off a South African defensive error and lofting a long ball from the edge of the box for a goal. Milan’s Olivier Giroud scored around ten minutes later, doubling the suffering for South Africa fans. But, for the most part, that was it. Giroud, Mbappe, and Antoine Griezmann continued to terrorise the South African defense but did not score until late in the game. Mbappe scored from the spot to complete his brace and make the game 3-0. Wissam Ben Yedder seemingly put the nail in the coffin that carried the Bafana Bafana as he nudged the ball in from point-blank range. A red card from South Africa’s Khuliso Mudau only intensified South Africa’s suffering, with Matteo Guendouzi scoring to end the game 5-0.

Altogether, it was not a very good international break for most African nations. They flopped against teams like France and England. Burkina Faso’s massive loss against Kosovo means African football has a long way to go before bridging the gap between Africa and Europe. Uganda’s close win against Asian minnows Tajikistan will give fans a bit of hope as the Qatar World Cup closes in.

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2023 Africa Cup of Nations

Against Mauritius, Luis Leal and Ricardo Cardoso dominated. Leal and Cardoso combined for four total goals, enough to edge an explosive Mauritius team. The Guabira striker’s score was the difference in the first leg, as Sao Tome barely edged Mauritius 1-0. In the next game, a shootout that saw a combined six goals all grace the net, Leal struck again. Leal’s goal and Ricardo Cardoso’s brace frustrated Mauritius, whose high-octane offense nearly foiled Sao Tome. Mauritius’ Kevin Bru, Dylan Collard Jr., and Ashley Nazira all scored, but in the end, a bent-but-not-broken Sao Tome defense prevailed. Sao Tome & Principe 4, Mauritius 3.

My Pick: Sao Tome & Principe

Although many were not shocked, Djibouti floundered against South Sudan.  Much like how Leal led Sao Tome to success, Gor Mahia attacker Tito Okello scored a brace in the first leg to put a lopsided match out of reach. The South Sudanese striker found the net early in the second half, making the game 1-0 in a tense, close game. Although Djibouti’s Samuel Akinbinu equalized quickly, a flurry of scores from the South Sudan attack put the match out of reach. The first leg ended 4-2. A low-key second leg saw Peter Chol score making the aggregate score 5-2. Djibouti, ranked very low on the FIFA Rankings, will undoubtedly frustrate Djiboutian football fans and put the football federation under immense pressure. South Sudan 5, Djibouti 2.

My Pick: South Sudan

Fans of Lesotho and Seychelles were treated to what called a barren draw. A scoreless stalemate that left Seychelles with a surprising yet slight advantage did make any headlines. Routine domination for Lesotho relieved Basotho supporters but may have worried them somewhat. Katleho Makateng netted a brace for the Likuena, while Sera Motebang added a third to secure qualification. Jean-Yves Ernesta scored Seychelles’ only goal in a depressing performance for the team.

My Pick: Lesotho

Somalia dominated Eswatini in the first leg with some impressive team performances. Three different players for Eswatini scored to put Somalia at a dizzying disadvantage. Eswatini’s Fanelo Mamba, Bonginkosi Dlamini, and Sandile Gamedze put the aggregate score at 3-0 in favour of the King’s Shield. Somalia’s Omar Jama managed to score in the second leg, but it was more of the same, as Mamba scored yet again. Sabelo Ndzinisia made his appearance on the scoresheet, as Eswatini triumphed and advanced to the qualifying round’s group stage.

It should not have been this close for a Gambian side just coming off a quarterfinals appearance last Africa Cup of Nations. They held a slim advantage over an unknown Chadian national team, with Hammarby striker Bubacarr Trawally scoring from the spot in their 1-0 win. Players like Musa Barrow and Omar Colley, although a major threat, could not find the net or widen the lead for The Scorpions.

Contrary to what many experts expected, Chad came out roaring in the second leg. Ahmat Abderamane scored in the middle of the first half. Despite Zurich striker Assan Cessay’s goal a short minute later, Ezechiel N’Douassel scored from the spot to restore Chad’s lead. Some tense 40 minutes dragged on, with the Gambia in position to get knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations thanks to the away goals rule. Yet Ceesay, hailed as a hero in his native Gambia, completed a brace as stoppage time reached its endpoint. Finding the net in the third penalty awarded in the home-and-away tie, the Gambia narrowly advanced to search for its next Africa Cup of Nations berth.

My Pick: The Gambia

All the friendlies

Guinea-Bissau easily dispatched Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finalists Equatorial Guinea three goals to none. Tanzania scored three goals to the Central African Republic’s one. Cape Verde took down Guadeloupe without any problem, as they beat them 2-0. Niger and Mozambique drew, scoring one goal each. Benin scored four unanswered goals against Liberia, while Euloge Placca completed a brace to lead Togo past Sierra Leone. Zambia triumphed over the Republic of the Congo, winning 3-1. Comoros narrowly edged Ethiopia, winning 2-1.

Gilson Tavares scored a hat-trick before the first half ended, and Bebe added a brace in Cape Verde‘s rout over LiechtensteinSouth Africa and Guinea could not find the net in their friendly. Uganda barely beat Tajikistan 1-1, resorting to penalties to pull out a win. The Central African Republic and Sudan forced each other into a scoreless stalemate. Angola emerged victorious in a 3-2 shootout with Guinea-Bissau, and Bahrain beat Burundi 1-0. Libya‘s match with Niger went down to the wire but saw Libya squeak past their opponents 2-1. Abdoul Ba rescued Mauritania from a draw with a stoppage-time strike, dashing Mozambique‘s hopes and making the game 2-1.

Zambia could not get the job done against Benin, losing 2-1. Sierra Leone beat Liberia 1-0, giving the latter its second loss in March. Cape Verde capped a perfect international break by beating San Marino, yet another puny national team, 2-0. Liberia‘s third loss came at the hands of Burundi, who beat them 2-1. Sierra Leone beat the Republic of the Congo 2-1 as well. After a narrow victory against Tajikistan, Uzbekistan creamed Uganda, outscoring them 4-2. Angola and Equatorial Guinea battled to a 0-0, and Benin drew with Togo 1-all. Tanzania and Sudan continued the trend of ties, drawing 1-all. Libya suffered a 2-0 loss at the hands of Mauritania.

The Author

Deolu Akingbade

I'm an African football analyst who loves cheering for the Super Eagles and Atletico Madrid. I am 13-years-old and am featured in WorldSoccerTalk as well.

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