AFCON: Pre tournament Algeria and Egypt face surprise upsets in their first group games

The results threw some of the pre-tournament predictions out the window as early as Day 3 at the African Cup in Cameroon. If there was a team to watch at the tournament it was Algeria, on a run of 40 games unbeaten since 2018. And if there was a player to watch it was Liverpool’s Salah, the Premier League’s leading scorer who has a claim to being the best in the world right now.

Mohamed Salah was kept in check as Egypt lost 1-0 to Nigeria on a superb goal by Kelechi Iheanacho in their first game at the African Cup of Nations on Tuesday.

Riyad Mahrez also had a tough day as he and his Algeria teammates missed several goal-scoring chances to open their title defense with a surprising 0-0 draw with minnow Sierra Leone, which is playing in its first major tournament in 26 years.

The results threw some of the pre-tournament predictions out the window as early as Day 3 at the African Cup in Cameroon. If there was a team to watch at the tournament it was Algeria, on a run of 40 games unbeaten since 2018. And if there was a player to watch it was Liverpool’s Salah, the Premier League’s leading scorer who has a claim to being the best in the world right now.

Algeria had countless openings. Yacine Brahimi hit two shots right at Kamara in quick succession at the start of the second half. Algeria substitute Sofiane Bendebka couldn’t get his effort on target with Kamara on the ground after making another save in the 67th minute.

Mahrez was denied when Kamara brilliantly got his fingertips to a low shot that was destined for the bottom corner in the last 10 minutes.

Algeria put Sierra Leone under siege for most of the second half, but when striker Baghdad Bounedjah, another substitute, headed weakly and straight into Kamara’s arms for the final miss, Belmadi’s frustration erupted.

Nigeria was meant to be a team in crisis after firing coach Gernot Rohr last month and installing Augustine Eguavoen as his replacement on an interim basis. Nigeria also is without top striker Victor Osimhen of Napoli and two other key forwards for the tournament.

Iheanacho, who’s been warming the bench at Leicester in recent months, seized his chance against Egypt in an early meeting of two of the tournament heavyweights to start Group D. He controlled a headed pass to him and, all in one move, fired a swift shot into the top right corner for Nigeria’s winner in the 30th minute.

Salah had one real opportunity for Egypt late in the game, but Nigeria goalkeeper Maduka Okoye came out and blocked Salah’s shot with his left leg.

Eguavoen said the game plan was relatively simple: “Try to keep Salah off the ball and play high-pressure football at the other end.”

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