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AFCON 2021: Hosts Cameroon open with win over Burkina Faso

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Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations hosts Cameroon opened the tournament with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Group A rivals Burkina Faso at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde on Sunday evening.

The Stallions looked on course for an upset when Gustavo Sangare put them ahead just after the midway point of the first half, but a pair of Vincent Aboubakar penalties in the minutes before the break ensured the Indomitable Lions claimed all three points on offer.

The first real sight of goal went the way of Cameroon in the eighth minute, with striker Aboubakar showing good footwork to open a shooting chance on the edge of the penalty area, but he blazed a shot high and wide.

Four minutes later Karl Toko Ekambi beat Burkina Faso goalkeeper Herve Koffi to a long ball and managed to round the shot-stopper down the right flank, though his subsequent attempt at a cross was sliced behind for a goal kick, as the hosts missed out on a great attacking opportunity.

The Indomitable Lions had bossed the opening quarter, but the Stallions claimed the lead on 24 minutes: Bertrand Traore – who had seconds before seen a header from a corner kick cleared off the line – whipped in a cross from the right flank which was missed by goalkeeper Andre Onana and allowed Gustavo Sangare to volley home left-footed for 1-0.

Traore went from creator to being culpable for Cameroon’s equaliser late in the first half, with the Aston Villa attacker guilty of a clumsy challenge on Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa in the 18-yard area.

Initially missed by referee Mustapha Ghorbal, VAR intervened and called for the official to watch the replay – he then awarded a spot kick to the hosts and Aboubakar coolly converted for 1-1 in the 40th minute.

The Lions were soon 2-1 up via another well-taken penalty from Aboubakar in injury time before the interval. This time the spot kick was awarded for a rash, late challenge from Issoufou Dayo on Nouhou Tolo long after the latter had clipped in a cross from the left of the penalty area.

Burkina Faso looked for an equaliser early in the second half and were close to levelling the game 10 minutes after the restart, as a well-worked free kick gave Cyrille Bayala a shooting chance just a few metres from goal, but Onana made a brave block to keep Cameroon ahead.

The hosts made the first changes with just over 20 minutes to play, sending on Clinton Njie and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, while the Burkinabe responded with the introductions of Mohamed Konate and Zakaria Sanogo shortly thereafter.

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Cameroon looked the likelier scorers at this phase of the game, with Anguissa seeing a low shot deflected just wide of the target, before Aboubakar blazed a shot off target from a tight angle on 77 minutes.

Yet the hosts did not find the third goal needed to avoid a nervy ending, with the Stallions pushing hard for an equaliser in the dying stages. However, the best chance they could muster was an injury-time effort from substitute Mohamed Konate which was comfortably saved by Onana.

The teams will be back in Group A action on Thursday 13 January, with Cameroon taking on Ethiopia and Burkina Faso battling Cape Verde – both at the Olembe Stadium.

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Referees are ‘spoiling’ AFCON and have turned it into ‘red card’ party – Fans

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Senegalese Referee Ndiaye Maguette

Africa Cup of Nations has been labelled an ‘absolute joke’ because referees are ‘spoiling’ the tournament with red cards.

Fans angrily took to social media after Cape Verde’s last-16 defeat to Senegal was overshadowed by the fact they were reduced to nine men.

Midfielder Patrick Andrade was sent off midway through the first half before goalkeeper Vozinha was also sent off following a collision with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane.

‘AFCON is an absolute joke,’ one fan wrote on Twitter. ‘Referees are spoiling the tournament man.’

Another disgruntled follower of the tournament wrote: ‘These referees at AFCON 2021 have given me more than enough reason to discontinue watching the tournament. Officiating at its lowest.’

The dismissal of Vozinha was the 13th so far in this instalment of the tournament, as many as in the previous four AFCONs combined.

Many of the red cards have been awarded after the fact following the use of the video assistant referee (VAR).

‘AFCON referees should be reminded that they don’t have to issue a red card every time they visit the VAR monitor,’ another angry fan tweeted.

Another added: ‘These referees at AFCON believe visiting a monitor is red card offense, they don’t challenge the VAR decision, pathetic #AFCON2021.’

The decision to send off Vozinha proved highly contentious in Tuesday night’s Senegal-Cape Verde knockout tie, which Senegal won 2-0.

All five of the last-16 matches has seen a red card, with the group stage also littered with reds

Vozinha and Mane collided in what appeared to be a 50-50 clash of heads but in a blink of an eye the Blue Sharks found themselves down to nine men.

‘#AFCON2021 refereeing is ridiculous,’ another tweet read. ‘The underdogs are always crippled by the decision of the referees. #SENCPV no red card for the keeper.’

The two dismissals in the Senegal-Cape Verde game mean there has now been at least one sending off in all five of the knockout matches played so far.

Across those five games, seven red cards have been shown.

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Denmark’s Eriksen starts comeback training with Ajax

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Danish footballer Christian Eriksen, who went into cardiac arrest at last year’s European Championships, is training with Ajax as he seeks a new club, the Amsterdam side said Tuesday.

Eriksen, 29, who has been fitted with a pacemaker, joined Jong Ajax, the reserve team of his former club after terminating his contract with Inter Milan by mutual consent in December.

Italian league rules bar players with pacemakers.

“Former Ajax midfielder Christian Eriksen is training with Jong Ajax this week. The Danish international is working to keep his fitness levels until he finds a new club,” Ajax said in a statement.

Eriksen joined Ajax at 16 in 2008, made his Eredivisie debut in 2010 and moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2013.

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“I am very happy to be here. At Ajax I know the people, it feels like coming home because I was here for so long. All facilities are available here and with Jong Ajax I can train at a high level in a group,” Eriksen was quoted as saying in the statement.

“I want to be at my best again as soon as possible so that when I find a new club, I can perform well there as quickly as possible.”

Eriksen signed a four-and-a-year deal with Inter Milan in January 2020, helping them to win the Serie A title last season.

He suffered a dramatic cardiac arrest in Denmark’s opening game at Euro 2020 against Finland in Copenhagen on June 12 and had to be resuscitated on the pitch.

Denmark then rode a wave of emotion at the tournament, reaching the semi-finals where they were knocked out by England.

The playmaker spent several days in hospital and had a pacemaker implanted to regulate his heartbeat.

He said earlier this month he hopes to play in the World Cup in Qatar this year and was recently in training with his boyhood club Odense.

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“If a former player and, moreover, a self-trained product of ours knocks on the door of the club in this situation, we have no doubts, of course he’s welcome back,” said John Heitinga, the coach of Jong Ajax, in a statement on the club website.

“Christian is a footballer who is an example for many of our boys, a source of inspiration for the youth to move up.”

English Premier League Club Brentford – whose Danish boss Thomas Frank on Monday signed a new contract until 2025 – have shown an interest in Eriksen, news agencies in England and the Netherlands reported.

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Eguaveon reveals plans for new Super Eagles coach after AFCON exit

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NFF technical director Austin Eguavoen has revealed his plans for incoming Super Eagles coach Jose Paseiro stressing the Portuguese tactician will  be given all the support needed to perform in his role.

Paseiro is expected to take over the team from Eguaveon who led the Super Eagles to the 2021 African Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

With the 2022 FIFA World Cup playoffs against Ghana taking place in March, Eguaveon recently returned to his role as the technical director of NFF, said Jose Peseiro will get the backing to perform.

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“We have to sit down together and map out strategies. We need to give him the platform, we have already prepared the team for 80 to 90 percent.

“He just have to add his own style and leadership. We would support him with everything because the country comes first,” he said before the team left Cameroon on Monday evening.

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