AFCON matchday preview: Ethiopia go in search of qualification miracle

By Sports Desk January 16, 2022

Monday sees the conclusion of Group A of the Africa Cup of Nations, with three sides still hoping to reach the knockouts.

While host nation Cameroon have already secured their last-16 spot, any of Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Ethiopia could yet join them in the next round.

Ethiopia's qualification would truly seem miraculous given they lost their opening two games and have failed to win any of their previous 10 matches in this competition.

Yet in a tournament that has already seen a few shocks, few would rule out another famous result.

 

Burkina Faso v Ethiopia

Ethiopia are on a four-match losing run at the AFCON, and they have only once endured a longer such streak, losing five in a row between 1968 and 1970.

They also suffered a 4-0 defeat to Burkina Faso in the only previous meeting of these sides in this competition, in what was the Stallions' biggest victory in the tournament.

However, despite losing 1-0 to Cape Verde and 4-1 to Cameroon at these finals, Wubetu Abate's men can still clinch a top-two finish with a win on matchday three. A high-scoring win would see them snatch second place should the hosts win the other game, while they could still end up as one of the top four third-place finishers.

"We did everything to put in a good match and a good performance against Cameroon," said Abate. "We scored a goal early in the game but couldn't keep the score in our favour.

"We are learning in the big competitions. Experience has made the difference between us and the Cameroon team. Each match has its characteristics. The matches are different but we try to show our abilities and play good football."

One to watch: Gustavo Sangare

Burkina Faso could finish second even with a defeat as long as Cape Verde lose, but the man best placed to get them all three points could be Sangare. Scorer of the opening goal of the tournament against Cameroon, he has attempted more shots (four) and created more chances (six) than any other player for his side.

 

Cape Verde v Cameroon

Although they have twice had to come from behind, Cameroon have looked impressive in these finals, their 4-1 thrashing of Ethiopia guaranteeing their spot in the last 16.

Should Toni Conceicao choose to rest any of his stars, this could prove to be a far trickier test given Cape Verde's recent defensive record.

They had lost only once in their previous eight AFCON matches before a 1-0 defeat to Burkina Faso, and that was the only time in their most recent four games in the competition in which they conceded a goal. They have faced difficulties in the opposition box, though, failing to score in three of their past four AFCON matches.

There is plenty to admire about Cape Verde's approach, even if goals have been a little hard to come by. They have recorded more sequences of 10 passes or more than any side at these finals (24), while a high-pressing approach has yielded 13 high turnovers, a figure bettered by only four teams.

One to watch: Kenny Rocha Santos

No Cape Verde player has attempted more shots (five), created more chances (two) or made more recoveries (13) than Kenny Rocha Santos. The 22-year-old Oostende midfielder also leads his side for shot-ending sequence involvements (eight) and shot-ending carries (two). Little wonder there is talk of interest from Liverpool.

 

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