Egypt’s Afcon hopes dashed by DR Congo, Guinea reach quarter-finals

DR Congo’s forward #23 Simon Banza (R) fights for the ball with Egypt’s defender #24 Mohamed Abdelmonem (L) during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 round of 16 football match between Egypt and DR Congo at the Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro on January 28, 2024. AFP

The injured Mohamed Salah will not get the chance to return to the Africa Cup of Nations after his Egypt side were knocked out of the competition on Sunday in a dramatic penalty shoot-out against the Democratic Republic of Congo, while Guinea progressed to the last eight.

Record-seven time champions Egypt lost 8-7 on penalties against the Congolese after their last-16 tie ended 1-1 at the end of extra time.

Meschack Elia put DR Congo ahead in the Ivorian coastal city of San-Pedro in the 37th minute, only for Mostafa Mohamed to equalise for Egypt from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time.

With no further scoring, Egypt held on for a shoot-out after having Mohamed Hamdy sent off for a second booking in the first half of extra time.

They were involved in three shoot-outs in four knockout ties at the last Cup of Nations in Cameroon two years ago, when they lost the final on penalties to Senegal.

Mohamed missed the target with the Pharaohs’ second kick, but Arthur Masuaku then squandered the Leopards’ next attempt.

Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal, better known simply as Gabaski, then put Egypt’s ninth penalty over, and Congolese ‘keeper Lionel Mpasi made no mistake to take DR Congo through to the quarter-finals.

It is a bitter pill for the Egyptians, who had come to Ivory Coast hoping to win a first Cup of Nations since 2010, a year before Salah made his senior international debut.

Salah dream on hold 

But they stumbled out of their group with three draws, and lost the Liverpool superstar to a hamstring injury in their second game against Ghana.

He had gone back to his club to continue treatment, in the hope of being able to return for the latter stages of the competition, but now his dream of winning the title with his country remains on hold.

Meanwhile, it is the first time DR Congo have won a knockout tie at the tournament since reaching the semi-finals in 2015.

“We practised penalties a lot in training over the last few days and I knew I would need to be ready,” Mpasi, the former Paris Saint-Germain youngster now playing for Rodez in the French second tier, told broadcaster Canal Plus Afrique.

“When I saw Gabaski shoot, we were looking each other in the eyes and I could see he looked a bit nervous.

“When I put the ball on the spot I just tried to stay calm. I thought about the last penalty I took in training and luckily it went well.”

Bayo hits late winner 

Sebastien Desabre’s team will head to Abidjan for a quarter-final on Friday against Guinea, who beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 earlier with a dramatic winner by Mohamed Bayo in the eighth minute of injury time.

The match at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium was also heading for extra time when Bayo, of French side Le Havre, headed in a cross by Ibrahim Diakite to spark frenzied celebrations among the Guinea team and their large support in a crowd of 36,340.

It was a historic moment for the Syli National, who had never previously won a Cup of Nations knockout tie — they were runners-up in 1976, in an era when the final four played a round-robin format to decide the winner of the trophy.

“It means a lot. We knew that this could be a historic occasion,” said Guinea coach Kaba Diawara, who was in tears at the final whistle.

He called for calm among supporters after reports that six people died amid celebrations in the capital Conakry following the 1-0 win over Gambia during the group stage.

That was after 24 people died and hundreds more were injured in a huge blast and fire at a fuel depot in the city in December.

“We had a catastrophe in December and another after the game against Gambia. So that is enough. Let’s stay calm and enjoy this,” Diawara added.

Meanwhile, Equatorial Guinea, who had midfielder Federico Bikoro sent off in the 55th minute, will wonder what might have been had captain Emilio Nsue not squandered a penalty midway through the second half.

The competition’s top scorer had the chance to net his sixth goal of this Afcon, but sent his penalty against the post and wide.

Hosts Ivory Coast take on reigning champions Senegal on Monday in Yamoussoukro, after Cape Verde face Mauritania in Abidjan.

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