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AFCON 2023 Day 11 Preview: Group A & Group B conclude

Group A: Ivory Coast v Equatorial Guinea 17:00 GMT

The third round of matches begins in the group stage of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations with a couple of notable teams facing elimination unless they can earn victories and all but one team still alive. Group A is set to conclude with hosts Ivory Coast still facing concerns ahead of their clash with group leaders Equatorial Guinea while Nigeria looks to snatch top spot against already eliminated Guinea-Bissau. Egypt and Ghana need victories in Group B to advance to the knockout stages and we preview all the matches on Monday below:

Group A: Nigeria v Guinea-Bissau 17:00 GMT

The momentum was firmly halted for hosts Ivory Coast in their defeat, making a result necessary against Equatorial Guinea on the final day

Group A closes up with hosts Ivory Coast meeting surprise group leaders Equatorial Guinea while Nigeria clash with already eliminated Guinea-Bissau. Ivory Coast fell to a surprise defeat in their anticipated match with Nigeria and now there are many questions that need answering due to their lackluster performance. Equatorial Guinea, on four points, will likely advance regardless of the result on Monday making a victory more of a priority for Les Éléphants.

For Ivory Coast, the past few days have been an opportunity to confront their weaknesses without the consequence of elimination for their defeat to Nigeria. The good news is the return of talented forwards Sébastien Haller and Simon Adingra who have been cleared to play for the Elephants.

However the difficulties for Ivory Coast against Nigeria involved the lack of penetrating passes against a Nigerian team that defended in numbers. Could the solution be moving Jérémie Boga into a more central playmaking role or bringing in veteran Max Gradel to play this position? Regardless of coach Jean-Louis Gasset’s choice of forwards, an adjustment must be made because the product of his formations is not equal to the sum of its parts.

Beyond the high reputation of their opponent, Monday’s match is a bit tricky for Equatorial Guinea who must avoid the trap of trying to play for a particular result. A victory is unlikely for the Nzalang but coach Juan Micha pointed out that his team has nothing to lose compared to Ivory Coast who could see support turn against them if they do not snatch control of the match.

There are no injury concerns for Micha’s team who surprised with four goals including a hat-trick from Emilio Nsue, the first scored at an AFCON since 2008. This team looks very strong and there is further motivation to boost the reputation of Equatoguinean football with a draw or victory against the hosts.

Nigeria central defender William Troost-Ekong continued his tour of redemption against Ivory Coast, anchoring a strong Nigerian defense and scoring the match winner from the penalty spot

For Nigeria a growing sense of pressure on the Super Eagles was released following their victory against Ivory Coast. This was the case most of all for head coach José Peseiro whose tactical aptitude was on display with Nigeria defending in numbers and looking dangerous on the counter-attack.

Peseiro praised his plan and how his players stuck to it but kept the focus on Guinea-Bissau and finding a victory against a team who have allowed six goals but have also been a bit unfortunate. The Super Eagles will use the match as an opportunity to get striker Victor Osimhen on the scoresheet but there is plenty of encouraging signs regarding the rejuvenated defense led by captain William Troost-Ekong as well as a solution found at the goalkeeper position with Stanley Nwabali establishing himself.

With little to play for other than pride, Guinea-Bissau coach Baciro Candé expressed sadness with the situation and lamented the misfortune of his team. Candé pointed out that his team had multiple opportunities to find a goal against Equatorial Guinea but poor finishing and a strong response from Equatorial Guinea led to a deficit the Djurtus could not overcome.

Despite the struggles, the Djurtus are a capable side who have firepower in attack with impressive moments from winger Mauro Rodrigues and a rising star in forward Franculino Djú who could get another chance in the eleven on Monday. The defense is where the worry lies for Candé who will need to find a way for his team to stop leaking goals.

Group B: Ghana v Mozambique 20:00 GMT

Group B: Egypt v Cape Verde 20:00 GMT

After missing Ghana’s opener due to injury, Mohammed Kudus returned in triumphant form and is the key player for the Black Stars against Mozambique

For Ghana, on two points in Group B, it is a “do or die” situation where a win is necessary for the Black Stars against a Mozambique side who are on three points. Coach Chris Hughton and veteran defender Denis Odoi placed an emphasis on mental preparation for the match. Odoi demanded that his teammates show care to avoid costly mistakes against the Mambas who have plenty of pace to take advantage.

The Black Stars continue to struggle in certain areas, particularly in defense where Mohammed Salisu and the fullbacks have looked vulnerable at times including Odoi himself. An outstanding return from injury for central playmaker Mohammed Kudus saw the West Ham United player score two goals in the 2-2 draw against Egypt but the attacking performance continued to be uneven for Ghana with Iñaki Williams continuing his struggles. Winger Joseph Paintsil was surprisingly left out of the eleven in the match with Egypt but could return after the inefficiency of Williams.

Mozambique need a victory too after suffering a decisive 3-0 defeat to fellow Lusophone nation Cape Verde. It will not be any easier against Ghana, a team Mozambique have failed to defeat in six meetings between the nations. Head coach Chiquinho Conde acknowledged the difficult task ahead of his team stating that Ghana will also be looking for a win which means the Mambas will have to come out on top in a fierce clash.

A tactical switch from Conde resulted in a disastrous outing for the Mambas against Cape Verde and it could be a return to a 4-4-1-1 formation like against Egypt. This formation will accommodate the presence of 40-year-old playmaker Domingues who came on at halftime against the Blue Sharks while striker Stanley Ratifo could also make way for Lau King. Mozambique has plenty of pace on the wings and attacking fullbacks who could make life difficult for Ghana’s questionable fullbacks with right winger Geny Catamo the primary attacking threat.

With Mohamed Salah unavailable due to injury, Omar Marmoush is Egypt’s best attacking midfielder following a strong performance against Ghana

Following two draws from their matches, Egypt are in a similar situation to fellow African titans Ghana and need a victory against Group B winners Cape Verde who have no worries heading into the clash. Considering the dramatic departure of star Mohamed Salah due to a muscle injury just before halftime of their 2-2 draw against Ghana, the Pharaohs responded quite well from a halftime deficit. Coach Rui Vitória demanded his team play with determination and intensity to get the victory they need.

Omar Marmoush is the primary threat from the Egyptian midfield and creative midfielder Emam Ashour must join Marmoush and new right winger Mostafa Fathi in providing service for poacher Mostafa Mohamed. Trezeguet is another creative option who came on as a substitute to provide an assist and could also be in the eleven considering his strong record with Egypt. The defense continues to look shaky and Cape Verde have the pace to cause issues.

Cape Verde coach Bubista expressed great pride in his team following the 3-0 victory over Mozambique, a result that followed a dramatic 2-1 victory over Ghana. The Blue Sharks are through to the knockout stages as group winners and now it will be interesting to see if the long-tenured coach elects to rest important players or go for a perfect three wins from three matches. Bubista did not give anything away regarding his selection, saying that the team will fight for victory against Egypt like the other two matches and that all members of the team are ready to contribute.

It is difficult to know who will be selected but there is a good chance that winger Garry Rodrigues will get an opportunity to impress from the beginning after strong substitute performances in the previous two matches. There could also be opportunities for Kenny Rocha Santos in the midfield as well as team leader Stopira who recently returned from injury. Whoever is selected, Cape Verde will not allow Egypt to have the three points they need without strong resistance.

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