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CHAN: Highlights, standings and players to watch after the second round of games

Every team at the African Nations Championship in Cameroon has played two matches, and that means it is time to go through the highlights, standings and most importantly to spotlight some more players. The football continues to improve as the teams find chemistry and the players get comfortable under the big spotlight, so here is the latest update on the tournament before the last stretch of the group stage:

Group A

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Matchday 2 Results

Cameroon 1-1 Mali  (Highlights)
Burkina Faso 3-1 Zimbabwe  (Highlights)

Matchday 3 Fixtures (24 January)

Cameroon v Burkina Faso
Zimbabwe v Mali

Featured Player

Siaka Bagayoko- Mali (Djoliba AC)

With the majority of Mali’s starting defensive line picked from the championship-winning Stade Malien, the one member not from Stade continues to make quite a name for himself. 22-year-old left-back Siaka Bagayoko may be the best flank defender in this tournament due to his all-action style and relentless motor. Tournaments like the CHAN allow players to give a glimpse of what they are capable of and Bagayoko has shown a little of everything. His aggression, instincts, flashes of technique and ability to initiate going forward quickly transition Mali from defending to attack:

Featured Player

Ismahila Ouédraogo- Burkina Faso (AS Douanes) (Middle)

A major reason why Burkina Faso struggled in their opening match loss to Mali was that Les Étalons’ central midfielders Ismahila Ouédraogo and Clément Pitroipa failed to make an impact. While Pitroipa came on as a substitute against Zimbabwe, Ouédraogo started and returned to form with a dominant performance. The 21-year-old AS Douanes midfielder buzzes around and gets his head up quickly to release the ball either short or over distance. Voted best defensive midfielder in the Burkinabé Premier League for the last two seasons running, a look at the video below illustrates why in Ouagadougou he is often called by the name of a famous player who shares a similar physical stature, N’golo Kanté:

Group B

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Matchday 2 Results

Libya 1-1 DR Congo  (Highlights)
Congo 1-1 Niger  (Highlights)

Matchday 3 Fixtures (25 January)

Niger v Congo DR
Congo v Libya

Featured Player

Prince Mapata Mouandza- Congo (AS Otôho)

Another full-back who is making the most of his first time in the spotlight, 19-year-old Prince Mouandza shows the raw qualities that suggest his development may accelerate in the coming years. A scrappy defender, Mouandza uses determination and low center of gravity to win 1 v 1 duels, showing the potential to lock down quick wingers. The AS Etôho player is still a work-in-progress with his technical ability and attacking instincts. However, the willingness is there and the clip below shows those moments towards the end, culminating with his goal against Niger.

Group C

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Matchday 2 Results

Morocco 0-0 Rwanda  (Highlights)
Togo 2-1 Uganda  (Highlights)

Matchday 3 Fixtures (26 January)

Togo v Rwanda
Uganda v Morocco

Featured Player

Messan Toudji- Togo (Gomido FC)

Towering center-back Messan Toudji has some experience on the international stage having represented Togo at the 2018 Toulon Tournament and the 23-year-old utilized his composure to lead the Sparrow Hawks to victory over Uganda. Toudji’s match may have been the most impressive individual performance in this round as he was just about perfect. According to Wyscout, Toudji completed all 32 of his pass attempts. These included some impressive medium to long range balls as well with both feet:

Toudji’s physical presence is impressive as well when asserting himself in the challenge or competing for aerial balls. He had the responsibility of marking the leading scorer of the 2018 CHAN, Morocco’s Ayoub El Kaabi, and did excellently to neutralize the physical Wydad forward. There are issues with slow lateral speed when isolated against quick dribblers, but Toudji has had to cover for his less experienced teammates on many occasions which can expose him. However, considering he was partnered with an 18-year-old debutant last match, it will be interesting to see if the Gomido FC defender can continue with play like this to lead tournament debutants Togo to the knockout stage.

Group D

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Matchday 2 Results

Zambia 1-1 Guinea  (Highlights)
Tanzania 1-0 Namibia  (Highlights)

Matchday 3 Fixtures (27 January)

Namibia v Zambia
Tanzania v Guinea

Featured Player

Zachariah Chilongoshi- Zambia (Power Dynamos)

Another standout full-back who operates on the left flank, Zachariah Chilongoshi has established himself as an undisputed starter for Zambia since the return from the pandemic. Chilongoshi only recently turned 21 but looks like he has been starting for years. While the other full-backs highlighted here possess frenetic styles of play and youthful aggression, the Power Dynamos player remains calm and does well to pick the right moments to zip forward. Chilongoshi will want to sharpen up his defense and further develop his physicality, but his advanced crossing ability, technical skill and composure at this level makes him a unique prospect in a tournament where talents typically need more work in those areas.

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