Six nations to qualify for AFCON knockouts without winning single group stage game
Egypt and DR Congo have advanced beyond AFCON 2023 group stages without a win
Six nations, each with its unique story, have managed to qualify in AFCON history by advancing to the knockout stages without securing a single victory in the group stage. These instances underscore the tournament’s unpredictability, where the journey to triumph is often paved with draws and resilience.
From the recent 2023 edition featuring powerhouses like Egypt and DR Congo to the historical campaigns of teams like Guinea in 2015, these stories illuminate the diverse paths teams can take en route to knockout glory.
In this exploration, we delve into the captivating sagas of these six nations, dissecting the challenges faced in the group stage and the resilience that propelled them forward:
DR Congo (2015)
In the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) had a notable campaign during the group stage. Placed in Group B alongside Tunisia, Cape Verde, and Zambia, DR Congo navigated through a challenging set of matches.
The tournament started with a 1-1 draw against Zambia. DR Congo managed to secure a point in their opening match, setting the tone for their group stage performance. in the second group stage match, DR Congo once again played to a 0-0 draw, this time against Cape Verde. The team showed resilience by consistently earning points in tightly contested matches.
The trend continued in their final group-stage encounter against Tunisia, where DR Congo secured another 1-1 draw. This result contributed to their advancement to the knockout stages. Despite not winning any of their group-stage matches, DR Congo’s ability to consistently secure draws proved crucial. With three draws, they finished as the second-placed team in Group B behind Tunisia.
The same year as DR Congo, Guinea faced a challenging group stage in Group D, competing against Ivory Coast, Mali, and Cameroon. The group stage matches were crucial in determining which teams would advance to the knockout stages.
Guinea began their AFCON campaign with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Ivory Coast. The opening match set the tone for Guinea’s resilient performance in the group. The second group stage match saw Guinea once again earning a 1-1 draw, this time against Cameroon. Guinea showcased determination and an ability to compete against tough opponents.
Guinea concluded the group stage with a third consecutive 1-1 draw, this time against Mali. The consistent results highlighted Guinea’s competitive spirit and their capacity to hold their own against strong teams. They finished as the third-placed team in Group D, advancing to the quarterfinals where they faced Ghana.
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In the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), Benin found themselves in Group F, alongside Ghana, Cameroon, and Guinea-Bissau. Benin began their AFCON campaign with a spirited 2-2 draw against Ghana. This result set a positive tone for Benin, as they managed to earn a point against a strong Ghanaian side.
Benin faced Guinea-Bissau, in the second group match, and the contest ended in a goalless draw. While Benin didn’t secure a victory, they continued to show resilience and remained unbeaten in the tournament. The final group stage match for Benin was against Cameroon, and once again, the match concluded with a 0-0 draw. Benin’s ability to secure points in closely contested encounters proved crucial for their progression.
Benin advanced to the knockout stages as one of the best third-placed teams. In the Round of 16, they faced Morocco, and the match ended in a 1-1 draw. However, Benin was eventually eliminated in the penalty shootout, marking the end of their journey in the 2019 AFCON.
Tunisia in the same year as Benin qualified while being placed in Group E alongside Angola, Mali, and debutants Mauritania. Tunisia’s AFCON campaign began with a 1-1 draw against Angola. Despite taking an early lead through Youssef Msakni, Tunisia conceded an equalizer, starting their tournament with a shared result.
The second group stage match saw Tunisia facing Mali, and the result mirrored their opening match, ending in a 1-1 draw. Wahbi Khazri scored the equaliser for Tunisia, and once again, they couldn’t secure a victory.
Tunisia played to a goalless draw against Mauritania in their final match of the group stages. While this result meant Tunisia finished the group stage without a win, their ability to secure draws allowed them to advance to the knockout stages.
Finishing as the second-placed team in Group E, Tunisia progressed to the Round of 16 where they faced Ghana. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, and Tunisia secured their spot in the quarterfinals by winning 5-4 in the subsequent penalty shootout. Tunisia’s journey in the 2019 AFCON came to an end in the quarterfinals with a 1-0 defeat to Senegal.
DR Congo (2023)
In the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) navigated through a challenging group stage with teams like Morocco, Zambia and Tanzania. The opening match of the group stage for DR Congo saw them go head-to-head against Zambia. Wissa scored the equalise for DR Congo to set the tone for their AFCON campaign.
DR Congo clashed with the group favourites Morocco in the second match of the group, aiming to secure vital points and solidify their position in the group standings. Hakimi opened the scoring very early in the first half but the 76th-minute equaliser by Silas earned a crucial point for DR Congo.
The final group stage match featured DR Congo against Tanzania. As teams vied for knockout stage berths, this match was pivotal for DR Congo’s progression in the AFCON. DR Congo needed a draw or win in this match to qualify for the knockout stages and they held Tanzania to a 0-0 draw which helped them secure the second position in Group F.
DR Congo will face the Egypt side without Salah in the Round of 16, DR Congo have to be careful with all the attacking abilities of Egypt as they face them.
Egypt started their group stage journey facing stiff competition in a bid to advance further in the tournament. Placed in a challenging group alongside formidable opponents like Ghana, Cape Verde and Mozambique.
The opening match saw Egypt take on Mozambique, setting the stage for their AFCON campaign, heading into this match Egypt were the favourites to win this match but they needed an extra-time equaliser by Salah to draw the match 2-2.
Egypt faced Ghana, a crucial match that influenced their path to the knockout rounds. Egypt faced a setback when Salah was forced to leave the field and they had to trail all match against the Ghana team but Mostafa’s goal in the 74th minute earned the important point to keep them in contention for the knockout stages.
All eyes were set on the final group stage match, Egypt went up against Cape Verde. Ghana needed a victory against Mozambique to secure a higher position than Egypt but Egypt’s draw to Cape Verde shattered their dreams.
Egypt scored the late goal in the extra-time to take the lead against Cape Verde but Cape Verde scored the equaliser in the dying seconds, this didn’t affect the standings of the group and Egypt are now in the Round of 16 where they will face DR Congo, the other side that qualified without winning a single match in the group stages.
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