Algeria and Tunisia facing fight to progress


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Algeria, champion in 1990 and three years ago, was held to a surprise draw by Sierra Leone on Matchday 1 and sit second in Group E.

North African neighbour Tunisia, which won the tournament back in 2004, started its campaign with a 1-0 defeat to 10-man Mali and is in desperate need of a result against Mauritania.

Mali will take on Gambia, while Cote d'Ivoire will look to consolidate top spot in its group when it meets Sierra Leone.

Gambia v Mali, beIN 1 1155pm AEDT

Gambia is bidding to become the first debutant to win its opening two matches at the Africa Cup of Nations since Equatorial Guinea did so in 2012.

That said, Mali is on a run of three wins in five AFCON games – as many as in its previous 15 in the competition – and is looking for consecutive victories to start the group for the first time since 2004.

In what will be a first meeting of these sides in this tournament, the advice is to keep your eye on the action in the second half: in the past 12 years, Mali has scored 21 of its 31 goals in this competition after half-time, a figure second only to Cote d'Ivoire (25).

One to watch: Hamari Traore

Rennes captain Traore made nine final-third entries against Tunisia, the most of any player, as he proved a dangerous outlet. He could be a major threat.

Tunisia v Mauritania, beIN 2 2:55am AEDT

Tunisia's shock loss to Mali was its third in a row at AFCON, something it suffered most recently in 2004 when it won the whole thing. It has never before lost four consecutive matches at this tournament.

The 2004 champion is also enduring a four-game winless run in the group stage and was held to a goalless draw by Mauritania in 2019 in its only previous meeting in this competition.

Mauritania, still without a victory at the Africa Cup of Nations, will at least hope to end a three-game run without a goal.

One to watch: Wahbi Khazri

Khazri missed a crucial 77th-minute penalty against Mali during a frustrating performance. The Saint-Etienne forward will be more determined that anyone to make amends.

Cote d'Ivoire v Sierra Leone, beiN 1 2:55am AEDT

Cote d'Ivoire is seeking a third consecutive win in the AFCON group stages, something it managed between January 2010 and January 2013.

History is on its side against Sierra Leone: it won the only previous meeting at this competition 4-0 back in 1994, in which Joel Tiehi scored a hat-trick, something no Cote d'Ivoire player has managed since in the tournament.

Sierra Leone has not scored in five of its previous six games at this event, only managing to do so against Burkina Faso in 1996, but it does have a man in good form at these finals.

One to watch: Mohamed Nbalie Kamara

Having studied Algeria's Riyad Mahrez by watching Manchester City footage, Sierra Leone goalkeeper became a national hero for his performance in their opening game. He even won praise from the country's president, Julius Maada Bio, who delivered a personal message of thanks on social media.

Algeria v Equatorial Guinea, beIN 1 5:55am AEDT

The third-highest-ranked African side was frustrated on Matchday 1, and there will be a determination to put things right.

It does at least boast an impressive defensive record, having gone unbeaten in nine matches in this tournament and kept six clean sheets in its most recent eight games.

Equatorial Guinea has won just one AFCON match since getting two victories on its tournament debut in 2012. Still, it was unbeaten in five games before these finals and beat Tunisia in FIFA World Cup qualifying towards the end of last year.

One to watch: Youcef Belaili

Belaili created six opportunities on Matchday 1, taking his tally to 18 in the competition overall. That is double the amount of chances created by any other Algeria player since his debut three years ago.