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In the most recent AFCON upset, Hotto Scores as Namibia Surprises Tunisia

KORHOGO: Namibia upset the Ivory Coast with a 1-0 victory over former champions Tunisia on Tuesday, causing the biggest upset of the Africa Cup of Nations thus far. The Brave Warriors achieved a historic first-ever triumph in the premier African tournament, defeating and drawing Cameroon, another elite team, in the qualifiers for the 2024 edition.

After just four days, the number of unexpected results has increased to six from ten games when Deon Hotto scored the lone goal of Group E’s first game with two minutes remaining in regular time. Five other former champions lost their opening games before Namibia in the northern city of Korhogo made a farce of the world rankings.

The series of surprising outcomes started on Sunday when Equatorial Guinea defeated Nigeria. Later, Mohamed Salah’s penalty in extra time allowed Egypt to steal a draw with Mozambique. Ghana, the third-most successful nation in the African championship with four titles, was defeated by Cape Verde thanks to a goal in extra time.

On Monday, 10-man Guinea held five-time champions Cameroon before the twice-conquered Algerians, Angola, rallied from a subpar first half performance to draw 1-1 with them. Out of 54 African football countries, Tunisia is currently ranked third, only ahead of Morocco, who are semifinalists in the 2022 World Cup, and Senegal, the reigning Cup of Nations champions.

They are also strong favorites to start their group campaign with a victory because they are ranked 87 spots higher in the world than Namibia. While Namibia had to overcome several off-field challenges in order to secure a spot in the Ivory Coast, Tunisia qualified with ease.

The country in southern Africa, which is mostly desert, had subpar stadiums, so home qualifiers against Burundi and Cameroon were held in Soweto, an outskirt of Johannesburg.

“Rusty” athletes

In addition, coach Collin Benjamin had to deal with a number of “rusty” players because Namibian competitions were suspended for multiple seasons due to a dispute between the national association and league officials. However, a team led by forward Peter Shalulile of the powerful Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa defeated Cameroon 2-1 at home.

Next up for Namibia is a match against South Africa’s neighbors in Korhogo on Sunday. On Wednesday, the country plays Mali in the port of San Pedro in the southwest. The Brave Warriors would almost certainly make the playoffs if they took even one point from the two games, finishing either in the top two or among the top four third-place teams.

Namibia is currently ranked second on the table with three points, three points behind Mali, who defeated South Africa 2-0 in the second game of a doubleheader to take the lead on goal differential. Bafana Bafana, making their Cup of Nations debut for just the fourth time in eight editions, let a first-half penalty that Percy Tau blasted over pass.

Early in the second half, Mali won through two goals in less than six minutes. After a free-kick struck the crossbar and rebounded, Lassine Sinayoko scored the second goal, which was finished by Hamari Traore. Burkina Faso defeated Mauritania 1-0 in a thrilling Group D match in central Bouake thanks to an extra-time penalty converted by Bertrand Traore, an out-of-favour forward for Aston Villa.

After anticipating this moment for 14 years, French coach Hubert Velud’s triumph at a Cup of Nations tournament was deeply emotional. Under Velud’s leadership, the Togo team was forced to exit the 2010 championship tournament after three members of the team were killed in an ambush on the team bus in the host country of Angola.

His attempt to qualify Sudan for the 2022 Cup of Nations was again thwarted when, prior to the competition, he was fired. Group D is led by Burkina Faso with three points, followed by Algeria and Angola with one each and Mauritania with none.

The last two group stage matches of the first round will take place on Wednesday. Morocco will play Tanzania, an outsider, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo will play Zambia, another past champion. AFP

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