Africa Cup of Nations debutants Gambia have continued their impressive run with a shock 1-0 defeat of Guinea that sent the Scorpions into the quarter-finals.

Gambia caused something of an upset just by getting out of their group, as they finished second to Mali, but their campaign shows no sign of stopping after they saw off their West African rivals on Monday.

A tetchy first half had few highlights but both sides did eventually threaten just before the break, as Guinea's Mohamed Bayo was denied at point-blank range by goalkeeper Baboucarr Gaye and Ebrima Darboe shot agonisingly wide at the other end.

The breakthrough arrived 19 minutes from time – Musa Barrow profiting from a fortunate ricochet before bursting into the box and coolly slotting home.

Guinea briefly thought they had levelled soon after, only for Ibrahima Sory Conte II to be flagged offside – he was then caught in the face accidentally as Yusupha Njie was somewhat harshly sent off for a second booking.

The Syli Nationale piled pressure on in the latter stages, hitting the frame of the goal twice in quick succession, but Conte then received his marching orders for a similar offence to Njie and Gambia held out for a famous win that will in all likelihood see them face hosts Cameroon in the last eight.

Cameroon were hot favourites to book a quarter-final place even before Comoros revealed they must field an outfield player in goal for Monday's Africa Cup of Nations last-16 clash.

Now hosts Cameroon must keep their focus in the unusual circumstances, while tournament debutants Comoros surely need a footballing miracle.

That is Monday's second knockout game, and it comes after a tussle between Guinea and Gambia in Bafoussam.

Guinea v Gambia (16:00 GMT)

Guinea will be without Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita for this one, after he picked up a second yellow card of the tournament late on in the defeat to Zimbabwe last time out.

The clash at Kouekong Stadium is one between teams that finished second in their respective groups, and Gambia will hope their good fortune holds after arguably riding their luck to reach this point.

Tom Saintfiet's Gambia side have outperformed their expected goals (xG) total, scoring three times from an xG of 2.0, while conceding just once despite an expected goals against (xGA) tally of 4.7. The 3.7 gap between xGA and actual goals conceded was the highest of all teams in the group stage.

Gambia faced the most shots of all teams (58) in the group stage, but remarkably they still kept two clean sheets, including when they pulled off a shock 1-0 win over Tunisia.

Guinea underperformed in their shooting, scoring only twice from an xG of 4.0 across their three group fixtures.

Gambia coach Saintfiet said ahead of the game: "We are not afraid as we have been together with the players for over three years, meaning we have cohesion and great team spirit."

One to watch: Amadou Diawara (Guinea)

Guinea are looking to win their first knock-out match at the Africa Cup of Nations at the sixth attempt, having lost all five of their previous such attempts. Roma midfielder Diawara should be a key figure in their efforts to come through this one, bringing his plentiful Serie A experience to bear.

 

Cameroon v Comoros (19:00 GMT)

Considering Cameroon were the top scorers in the group stage with seven goals, Comoros would have liked their first-choice goalkeeper fit for this one. Second choice would have been fine, third choice a salvageable situation. But instead they are all out of keepers, with Salim Ben Boina injured and both Moyadh Ousseini and Ali Ahamada testing positive for COVID-19.

The minnows will hope their chosen emergency keeper proves a revelation at Stade d'Olembe, but the prospects for Comoros appear bleak, despite them reaching the knockout stages with a shock 3-2 win over Ghana.

This will be the first Africa Cup of Nations encounter between Cameroon and Comoros, who on Saturday reported a total of 12 COVID cases in their camp.

Cameroon have reached at least the quarter-finals in eight of their last 10 Africa Cup of Nations appearances, although they have failed to do so in two of the previous three editions (group stage in 2015 and last-16 in 2019).

No doubt licking his lips at the prospect of facing Comoros will be Cameroon captain Vincent Aboubakar, top scorer in the tournament with five goals in the group stage. The last players to score more than five goals in a single edition of the Africa Cup of Nations were Egypt's Hossam Hassan and South Africa's Benni McCarthy (both 7) in 1998.

One to watch: The rookie goalkeeper

Whoever gets the gloves faces a daunting challenge. Cameroon attempted 35 shots in the group stage, more than any other side, and also tried 63 crosses (only Senegal and Egypt had more). Comoros shipped five goals in three games when they had a recognised goalkeeper, losing two of their three Group B games. They should be ripe for being picked off by the home team in Yaounde.

 

Guinea faced an anxious wait but will still qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 despite suffering a shock 2-1 defeat to Zimbabwe at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo.

Kaba Diawara's side started their final Group B match with one foot seemingly in the knockout stage, but Zimbabwe pulled off an upset to end their 14-match winless run in Yaounde on Tuesday.

Guinea then had to wait for confirmation that Sengal and Malawi had drawn 0-0 in the other game before being sure of their place in the next stage.

As a result, Senegal finished top of the group, meaning they will play one of the best third-placed teams, while Malawi finish third behind Guinea by virtue of an earlier defeat to them.

Captain Knowledge Musona rose unmarked to open the scoring for Zimbabwe - with no chance of qualifying after losing their two other games - after 26 minutes, heading home Never Tigere's cross from six yards out.

Kudakwashe Mahachi doubled Zimbabwe's lead two minutes before half-time, with goalkeeper Aly Keita badly at fault as he failed to keep out the midfielder's shot from outside the penalty area.

Guinea looked a totally different side after the break and Naby Keita halved the deficit four minutes into the second half, bursting forward and unleashing a rasping left-foot strike from outside the box that flew into the far corner of the net.

Zimbabwe came under increasing pressure but held on for their first AFCON win since 2006, while Syli Nationale will need to improve markedly to make an impact in the knockout stages.

Guinea face an anxious wait to discover if they will qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 after suffering a shock 2-1 defeat to Zimbabwe at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo.

Kaba Diawara's side started their final Group B match with one foot seemingly in the knockout stage, but Zimbabwe pulled off an upset to end their 14-match winless run in Yaounde on Tuesday.

Captain Knowledge Musona rose unmarked to open the scoring for Zimbabwe - with no chance of qualifying after losing their two other games - after 26 minutes, heading home Never Tigere's cross from six yards out.

Kudakwashe Mahachi doubled Zimbabwe's lead two minutes before half-time, with goalkeeper Aly Keita badly at fault as he failed to keep out the midfielder's shot from outside the penalty area.

Guinea looked a totally different side after the break and Naby Keita halved the deficit four minutes into the second half, bursting forward and unleashing a rasping left-foot strike from outside the box that flew into the far corner of the net.

Zimbabwe came under increasing pressure but held on for their first AFCON win since 2006, while Syli Nationale.will have to wait to learn if they will qualify as one of the best third-placed finishers after Senegal and Malawi drew 0-0 to finish top and second respectively.

Three of the pre-tournament Africa Cup of Nations favourites conclude their group stage fixtures on Tuesday, though one of them is in a tricky situation.

Senegal are on track to qualify from Group B, while Morocco have so far handled the potentially difficult Group C rather well – the same cannot be said for Ghana.

Luckily for the Black Stars, they have arguably – on paper at least – their easiest game of the group stage to look forward to as they bid to avoid falling at the first hurdle for only the second time this century.

Malawi v Senegal (16:00 GMT)

Just by beating Zimbabwe 2-1 thanks to a brace from the excellent Gabadinho Mhango, Malawi have arguably already compounded expectations at this year's tournament.

That was only their second ever win at the AFCON and it ensured they go into Tuesday with a real chance of qualification, either automatically or as one of the four best third-placed teams.

But Senegal still have a lot to play for themselves, with Aliou Cisse's men tied on four points with Guinea.

While that could be enough to take them through anyway, failing to top this group will not be a good look for the team many considered favourites to lift the trophy.

One to watch: Gabadinho Mhango (Malawi)

While Senegal undoubtedly possess the stronger squad, Orlando Pirates striker Mhango really caught the eye last time out with a couple of well-taken goals. One more will make him Malawi's all-time top scorer in the AFCON.

 

Zimbabwe v Guinea (16:00 GMT)

A wonderful opportunity awaits Guinea here, with the Syli Nationale knowing they will win the group as long as they better Senegal's result.

Their 0-0 draw with the Teranga Lions was a decent outcome and means they are one of just three teams still to concede a goal – though goalkeeper Aly Keita's tournament-best record of 2.4 goals prevented may have something to do with that.

They face a Zimbabwe side with only pride to play for having lost each of their first two games, though the omens are not great for Guinea: the Warriors' only previous AFCON wins have been in their final group matches (in 2004 and 2006).

 

One to watch: Mohamed Bayo (Guinea)

Despite their chances being worth 2.98 in terms of expected goals (xG), Guinea have only netted once. That 1.98 non-penalty xG underperformance is the second-worst at the tournament. Bayo arrived in Cameroon in good form – they will hope he can inspire an improvement where it matters most.

 

Gabon v Morocco (19:00 GMT)

As one of only three teams to win both of their first two games this year, Morocco are already assured of a place in the next round – they just need to seal top spot now.

The Atlas Lions are already on their longest unbeaten run at the AFCON (six matches) since going 11 without defeat in the 1970s, and they also boast the best xG (5.3) and xGA (0.5) records of the teams to play twice, evidence of how effective they have been at both ends of the pitch.

But Gabon, who confirmed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mario Lemina have returned to their clubs for medical reasons, are aiming to go unbeaten in a second success group stage campaign for the first time, with a point likely good enough to send them through.

One to watch: Youssef En-Nesyri (Morocco)

It has been a frustrating season so far for Sevilla striker En-Nesyri, who has missed prolonged periods through injury and then saw his penalty saved against Comoros. His 25-minute cameo then was his first appearance in the tournament. With qualification already assured, they might opt to build up his fitness for the knockouts with a start against Gabon.

 

Ghana v Comoros (19:00 GMT)

Ghana were held to a 1-1 draw by Gabon last time out, a match that was marred by ugly scenes at full-time after a late equaliser denied them victory. It culminated in a red card for Benjamin Tetteh after he punched an opponent in the face.

Having also lost to Morocco on matchday one, Ghana now need a win to have any hope of progressing – even then, it may not be enough.

If Ghana do not win, it will be the first time they have ever failed to win a single group game in 22 appearances at the tournament.

It would also be their first failure to get out of the group since 2006. Much is at stake.

One to watch: Andre Ayew (Ghana)

While Ghana have some very talented young players in their squad, their qualification hopes are looking a little desperate – they need their experienced stars to take the lead here. Andre Ayew and his brother Jordan are obviously the focus here, given that nine (70 per cent) of Ghana's previous 13 AFCON goals have been scored by the siblings (Andre is on five, Jordan on four).

 

Senegal failed to take advantage of their apparent superiority against Guinea as they were held to a 0-0 draw at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Lions of Teranga reached the final of the 2019 tournament but are still awaiting their first AFCON title and better attacking play will be required for them to do so on the evidence of this Group B encounter.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was left to rue the absence of Senegal's Sadio Mane and Guinea's Naby Keita, as well as Mohamed Salah of Egypt, in their 0-0 EFL Cup draw with Arsenal on Thursday. But neither Mane nor Keita could provide the moment of magic to break the deadlock in Bafoussam, though it was not for lack of trying.

Guinea, for whom Keita played a game-high 18 passes in the opposition half, should have taken the lead in the 31st minute when Morgan Guilavogui shot straight at Seny Timothy Dieng after a counter-attack, while Mane created Senegal's best chance of the game in the 67th minute only for Bouna Sarr to skew hopelessly wide from close range.

Sarr's miss encapsulated a match in which the two teams combined for just three shots on target, though both should sail into the next round having each claimed four points from two games in a group with minnows Malawi and Zimbabwe.

The Africa Cup of Nations group stage continues at pace on Friday, with four matches scheduled to take place.

Senegal, runners-up in 2019, face Guinea in Group B, with both teams having won their opening fixtures. Malawi and Zimbabwe take each other on in the other match in that group.

Meanwhile, Gabon are hoping to have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back for their clash with Ghana in Group C, while Morocco, winners against the Black Stars on matchday one, take on Comoros.

Senegal v Guinea (13:00 GMT)

Senegal and Guinea are meeting for the third time at the Africa Cup of Nations, with the former winning their first two encounters: 2-1 in the 1994 group stages and 3-2 in the 2006 quarter-finals.

In both matches, Guinea opened the scoring before eventually finishing as the losing side, and it is Senegal – led, of course, by Sadio Mane – who will be favourites on Friday, the Liverpool forward's 97th-minute penalty sealing an opening win against Zimbabwe.

Mane's fellow Red Naby Keita is Guinea's star man. He attempted more passes in the opposition half (26) than any of his team-mates in the 1-0 defeat of Malawi last time out and it was his precise ball that led to the only goal of the game.

Keita might have his work cut out against a Senegal midfield that will likely include Paris Saint-Germain's all-action Idrissa Gueye, the towering presence of Crystal Palace's Cheikhou Kouyate and Bayern Munich's versatile full-back Bouna Sarr, who had five attempts and played two key passes in the win over Zimbabwe.

One to watch: Sadio Mane

After his last-gasp winner on Monday, Mane has been directly involved in five of Senegal's past six AFCON goals, scoring four and providing one assist. Since his debut in the competition in January 2015, the former Southampton star has been directly involved in more goals than any other Senegal player.

 

Malawi v Zimbabwe (16:00)

After narrow defeats in their opening matches, Group B's other teams will be looking to bounce back knowing they could draw level with one of the pool's big sides with three points.

That being said, neither team exactly have a strong history in the competition. This will be the first encounter between the nations at an AFCON finals, with Malawi winning just one of their seven matches at the tournament (D1 L5).

Zimbabwe, meanwhile, are winless in their past seven AFCON matches (D2 L5), last claiming a victory in the competition in 2006, against Ghana (2-1).

It could be a case of an easily stoppable force meeting a highly movable object, however, with Malawi having failed to score in four of their past seven AFCON games, while Zimbabwe have never kept a clean sheet in 13 such matches, conceding 28 goals. No team has ever played more games in the competition without once keeping the ball out of their own net.

One to watch: Tino Kadewere (Zimbabwe)

Lyon forward Kadewere had to settle for a place on the bench in the first game, though he came on for the second half and had two attempts, which was bettered by only Knowledge Musona for Zimbabwe. In a squad shy of top-level European experience, Kadewere is undoubtedly the standout talent.

 

Morocco v Comoros (16:00)

After Senegal, Morocco are the second-best-ranked team at AFCON, currently placed 28th in the FIFA's world standings.

The Atlas Lions defeated Ghana in their opening Group C match and head into Friday's meeting with minnows Comoros as huge favourites, with Morocco looking to win their opening two matches at an AFCON in consecutive editions of the tournament, having only won both such games in one of their previous 16 appearances in the competition.

Comoros, who went down 1-0 to Gabon on Monday, will hope to avoid becoming the sixth AFCON debutants this century to lose their opening two matches, after Benin (2004), Botswana (2012), Burundi (2019), Niger (2012) and Zimbabwe (2004).

One to watch: Sofiane Boufal

Former Southampton midfielder Boufal scored an 83rd-minute winner against Ghana. No Moroccan player has netted in successive AFCON matches since Houssine Kharja in 2012.

 

Gabon v Ghana (19:00)

Friday's headline clash sees Gabon take on Ghana, and Aubameyang could well be back after he trained with his side following a negative coronavirus result.

Aubameyang, who has not played for Arsenal since early December and was recently stripped of the club captaincy due to a disciplinary breach, tested positive for COVID-19 upon his arrival for the AFCON, along with Mario Lemina.

Gabon will, however, be without coach Patrice Neveu, who is isolating. They are looking to win successive AFCON games for the first time since a run of three victories in 2012.

Four-time champions Ghana, meanwhile, have won just one of their past five group games (D2 L2), losing more in this run than in their previous 12 such matches combined (W9 D2 L1).

One to watch: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

There is no doubting Aubameyang's quality, even if the 32-year-old has been ostracised at Arsenal recently. Having been out of action for so long, it may take the former Borussia Dortmund star time to get up to speed, though he has the ability to be the difference-maker. 

Guinea got off to a winning but unconvincing start at the Africa Cup of Nations as they edged past Malawi with a 1-0 win on Monday.

A stylish goal from Issiaga Sylla was enough to seal the points, but they were made to work hard by a side playing at just the third finals in their history.

Indeed, it was Malawi who had by far the better of the early chances and would have gone ahead had Yamikani Chester kept his composure and then kept his feet when twice through on goal.

Ibrahima Conte hit the post with a header before Sylla broke the deadlock, steering home first time after Jose Kante had been found by a good ball from Liverpool's Naby Keita.

Experienced Guinea goalkeeper Aly Keita was called on to deny Malawi captain Limbikani Mzava and Peter Banda before half-time as Malawi, ranked 129th in the world and unable even to name a full substitutes' bench, continued to threaten.

Guinea took greater control in a second half short on chances as they took a positive step towards qualifying from Group B.

However, the level of their performance did little to belie the 2.28 per cent chance of winning the tournament that Opta's predictor tool gave them before kick-off, and coach Kaba Diawara will hope for better when they face Senegal on Friday.

The Africa Cup of Nations is in full swing following its big kick-off on Sunday, and Monday sees the action taken up a notch.

There will be twice as many games as Group B and Group C get under way, providing first opportunities to see two of the pre-tournament favourites: Morocco and Senegal.

But the shroud of COVID-19 lingers over practically every AFCON match at the moment, and it will be especially difficult to ignore its impact on games on Monday, with the likes of Senegal, Guinea, Malawi and Gabon all missing key players.

Senegal v Zimbabwe (13:00 GMT)

Senegal's second so-called 'golden generation' is running out of time.

They arrived in Cameroon with a stacked squad, but many of their key players are approaching 30 or are already there.

To make matters worse, coach Aliou Cisse is without a host of big players against Zimbabwe, a game he will be keen to just get out of the way.

"I was looking at the composition of our team," Cisse said. "Compared to our last match against Congo, I can already tell you we have six indisputable starting players who are not on the squad list: Edouard Mendy, Krepin Diatta, Ismaila Sarr, Nampalys Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly and Saliou Ciss.

"Having six absent starting players, it's true that it's worrying."

One to watch: Sadio Mane (Senegal)

Senegal have one of the best squads – if not the very best – in the tournament, but they are going to rely on Mane to a certain degree, particularly given their COVID-19 absences. Thankfully he is exceptional both when it comes to sniffing out chances and creating them, with his 0.67 non-penalty expected goal involvements every 90 minutes being the fourth-best in the Premier League (min. 900 minutes played) this term.

 

Guinea v Malawi (16:00 GMT)

Both Guinea and Malawi have been among the sides struck by coronavirus ahead of this tournament, but the former should still fancy their chances on Monday against a team considered Group B's rank outsiders.

Anything but three points will be a major disappointment for Guinea on matchday one, and key player Naby Keita is not among those to be afflicted with COVID-19.

As such, coach Kaba Diawara is feeling confident.

"We have the ambition to go as far as possible in this competition, which is why I accepted this mission," Diawara told Africa Top Sports ahead of the tournament.

"It's clear that it is the results that will speak. We try to put things in place, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

One to watch: Mohamed Bayo (Guinea)

While Naby Keita may be the team's most-recognisable star, expectations on Bayo are significant given he heads into the tournament with nine Ligue 1 goals to his name with Clermont this season, 45 per cent of their total output, and only one was a penalty. Only Jonathan David (12) and Wissam Ben Yedder and Ludovic Ajorque (both 10) have scored more in the French top flight so far.

 

Morocco v Ghana (16:00 GMT)

After Senegal (60.9 per cent), Morocco are the likeliest to finish top of a group at the AFCON (52.6 per cent), according to Stats Perform analysis. This speaks to the quality in the side assembled by Vahid Halilhodzic.

Even without Chelsea star Hakim Ziyech, who has been exiled, Morocco boast some fine players and will be expected to go deep into the competition – not that coach Halilhodzic is taking anything for granted.

"We have to prepare well to face the three teams in the group: Ghana, Gabon, and the Comoros," the Bosnian told reporters.

"Although Morocco are favourites to reach the second round, we have to prepare well and play with a lot of ambition and determination to go as far as possible."

One to watch: Yassine Bounou (Morocco)

This is likely to be Morocco's biggest challenge in the group stage, so they will want to be solid at the back. Bounou should help them in that respect – the Sevilla goalkeeper's 25 clean sheets in all competitions in 2021 was a total bettered only by Ederson (26) and Edouard Mendy (27) across the top five leagues in Europe.

 

Comoros v Gabon (19:00 GMT)

Comoros' Group C opener will be a momentous game as they play in a major international tournament for the first time.

Making a splash will be tough, but coach Amir Abdou is adamant they are more than worthy of their place in Cameroon.

 

He told Africa Foot United: "We haven't qualified by chance. We therefore don't think that we will let the opportunity to go as far as possible slip away.

"We will fight with our weapons with our various opponents, as tough as they are."

 

One to watch: Denis Bouanga (Gabon)

Gabon are likely to be without two of their most experienced players in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mario Lemina due to coronavirus, meaning others will need to step up. Bouanga will probably be among those expected to take on greater responsibility. The gifted Saint-Etienne left-winger is a good dribbler and takes a lot of shots, his 3.4 attempts per 90 minutes being the fifth-most in Ligue 1 this season (min. 900 minutes played).

Liverpool are not worried about being without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita while they are on Africa Cup of Nations duty, according to assistant Pep Lijnders.

The trio all played in Sunday's thrilling 2-2 Premier League draw with Chelsea in their final outing before linking up with their respective national sides.

Mane and Salah were both on target at Stamford Bridge as Liverpool raced into a two-goal lead, while Keita was introduced in the second half after Chelsea had levelled up through Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic.

Key attacking pair Salah and Mane have played in 26 of Liverpool's 29 matches this term – the joint-most of any Reds players, with Jordan Henderson (25) next on the list.

Between them, they have scored 33 of their side's 77 goals in 2021-22, while chipping in with a combined 10 assists.

Liverpool could now potentially be without both players, as well as midfielder Keita, until the second week of February depending on how far their countries advance at the Africa Cup of Nations.

But Lijnders, who filled in for Jurgen Klopp against Chelsea after the German tested positive for coronavirus, is confident others in the squad can now step up.

"You can try to plan it, but you can never prepare it," he said.

"It is not a worry because we have faith in the boys we have and a few boys are coming back as well.

"We know that certain players can play more offensively as well, they have been playing in midfield, but they can play more offensively as well."

Salah and Mane will link up with Egypt and Senegal respectively, while Keita is part of Guinea's squad for the tournament in Cameroon.

Losing three regulars during a hectic period in the season and with others out through coronavirus and injury is not ideal for Liverpool, but Lijnders has wished the trio well.

"I just told the boys that they should try to win the AFCON because it is a prize to catch and the careers are never long and they deserve to fight for each prize," Lijnders said.

"This prize now comes in front of them – it’s a tournament with so much passion, so much culture and it is a really proud situation if you can play for your country.

"If it's England or Germany or Holland or whoever, that's what they have and feel.

"So they are African legends, they are legends for me, but if they win it they will probably be even bigger legends so they should try with all they have to win it."

Roberto Firmino missed the Chelsea game after contracting COVID-19, while Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi are currently nursing injuries.

Asked when those players are expected to return to training, Lijnders said: "Let's see. 

"Some of the boys plan to be back, but they still didn't start team training, so we have to see."

Lijnders confirmed Klopp will still be absent for the first leg of Liverpool's EFL Cup semi-final tie with Arsenal on Thursday as he continues to self-isolate.

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