Egypt slump out of Afcon 2023 with shootout defeat to DR Congo as Nigeria flex muscles

Pharaohs' disappointing tournament ends at round of 16 as Nigeria and Guinea advance to quarter-finals

DR Congo players Gedeon Kalulu, left, and Samuel Moutoussamy celebrate in front of Egypt players after winning the penalty shootout which sent them through to the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals. AFP
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Egypt's forgettable Africa Cup of Nations campaign came to an end on Sunday night after being eliminated in a penalty shootout by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while Guinea and Nigeria both advanced to the quarter-finals.

One of the pre-tournament favourites to lift the trophy, Egypt left the Ivory Coast without a win in four games after captain and star player Mohamed Salah sustained an injury that saw him leave the squad early.

The Pharaohs' exit came in an 8-7 penalty shootout defeat to DR Congo after the tie ended 1-1 at the end of extra time.

Meschack Elia put DR Congo ahead in the 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 shootout after Mohamed Hamdy was sent off for a second booking in the first half of extra time.

They were involved in three shootouts in four knockout ties at the last Afcon 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.

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

It is a bitter pill to swallow for the Pharaohs, who had come to the Ivory Coast hoping to win a first Afcon title since 2010, a year before Salah made his senior international debut.

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

He had gone back to his club to receive 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 is back on hold.

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

"We practiced penalties a lot in training over the last few days and I knew I would need to be ready," Mpasi, a former Paris Saint-Germain youngster who now plays 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."

Guinea seal dramatic win

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 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 Guinea, who had never previously won an Afcon 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 had died amid celebrations in the capital Conakry after Guinea's 1-0 group stage win over Gambia.

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.

Lookman guides Nigeria past Cameroon

Atalanta's Ademola Lookman scored both goals as Nigeria defeated old rivals Cameroon 2-0 to march into the quarter-finals.

Nigeria had an early Semi Ajayi goal disallowed after a VAR review in the round of 16 clash, before star man Victor Osimhen's constant pressing and bullying of the Cameroonian defence led to Lookman finding the net in the 36th minute.

The Nigerian defence, which has been impenetrable at this Afcon, kept Cameroon at bay for the rest of the game, before Lookman made sure of the victory in the 90th minute in front of 22,085 fans at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan.

Nigeria will return to the venue next Friday for a quarter-final meeting with Angola.

"It was a big performance from the team, we fought well from the first minute to the 100th minute," said Lookman.

With the fearsome Osimhen leading from the front, the Super Eagles are a serious threat to reigning champions Senegal as they chase a fourth continental crown.

"I am very happy with my boys. I think our team did a very good job against a very good team. We deserved to win," Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro said.

Updated: January 29, 2024, 7:20 AM