In the lead up to the competition, it was reigning champions Ivory Coast who were well backed as the favorites while Algeria, boasting several players from the Premier League in England, were also
among the favorites, as were Senegal. With licenced sports betting available in Ghana and many other countries around the region, there was quite a lot of money placed on who would win the competition but also who would reach what stage. Hosts Gabon were in the second string of teams who had potential and could cause a surprise.
Eventual winners Cameroon were 7-1 to repeat their past success, with the loss of star Joel Matip being cited as a reason for their longer odds.
The draw for the teams that qualified has taken place back in October and took a format of four groups of four teams. Group A consisted of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon and Guinea Bissau while Group B included Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria and Zimbabwe. Group C was DR Congo, Morocco, Ivory Coast and Togo while the final Group D placed together Egypt, Ghana, Mali and Uganda.
From the start, it was clear that the pre-tournament favorites weren’t getting it their own way. Algeria only drew 2-2 with Zimbabwe and then lost 2-1 to Tunisia, finishing third in the group after a disappointing 2-2 draw with Senegal.
Likewise, Ivory Coast had a 0-0 draw with Togo in their opening game followed by another draw against DR Congo, this time 2-2 and finally a 1-0 defeat to Morocco, leaving them also third place in their group.
Despite home advantage, Gabon were unable to fulfil their potential and also finished in third place They had a 1-1 draw with Guinea Bissau followed by another same score draw against Burkina Faso and a final 0-0 draw with Cameroon.
Of the early favorites, Senegal were the ones to make the most impressive progress through the group stages. They beat Tunisia 2-0 in the first game and had the same result against Zimbabwe in the second one. They finished with a 2-2 draw with Algeria but this secured their position in the knockout stages.
The quarter finals were all relatively closely fought matches. In the first game, the largest winning margin, Burkina Faso beat Tunisia 2-0 with goals from Bance and Nakoulma. In the second game, Senegal and Cameroon held each other to a 0-0 draw and Cameroon eventually won 5-4 on penalties. In the third quarter final, Ghana beat DR Congo 2-1 with goals from J Ayew and A Ayew while the fourth match saw Egypt beat Morocco with a goal from Kahraba.
In the semi finals, the matches remained close with the first seeing a 1-1 draw between Burkina Faso and Egypt. The game went to penalties and Egypt eventually got through 4-3. In the other semi, Cameroon had a more comfortable match against Ghana, winning 2-0 with goals from Ngadeu-Ngadjui and Bassogog.
That left the third place playoff match between Burkina Faso and Ghana, played on 4 February. The game was won with a single goal by Burkina Faso’s Al Traore in the 89th minute to see them finish in third place.
The final look place on 5 February between Egypt and Cameroon at Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville. The crowd of over 38,000 saw Elneny net an early goal for Egypt at just 22 minutes but Cameroon weren’t to be denied their fifth title. Goals from Nkloulou in the 59th minute and Aboubakar in the 88th minute saw them crowned champions. At the end of the competition, the man of the competition award went to Cameroon’s Christian Bassogog while the top scorer was Junior Kabananga of the DR Congo. The Fair Play prize was awarded to Egypt.
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