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Reigning champions Algeria start Afcon campaign with disappointing draw with Sierra Leone

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Algeria Mahrez

Reigning champions Algeria started their Africa Cup of Nations defence with a disappointing draw with Sierra Leone in Douala on Tuesday.

Despite having Manchester City winger Ryhad Mahrez in their starting XI, it proved a frustrating day for the Algerians who struggled to find a way through one of the tournament’s rank outsiders.

Yacine Brahimi, who plays for Qatari side Al Rayyan, missed the holders’ best opportunity just after half-time when the winger found himself one-on-one with Mohamed Kamara only to scuff at his shot and allow the goalkeeper to make a one-handed stop and gather at the second attempt.

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Algeria were expected to get their Group E campaign in Cameroon off to an easy start against a team who are returning to the tournament for the first time since 1996.

read also:Toni Kroos set for contract extension at the Bernabeu

But the West Africans produced a brave performance as they clung on for a point in sweltering heat in the port city.

The draw allows Algeria to extend their remarkable unbeaten run in competitive action to 35 games — putting them within touching distance of the record of 37 undefeated internationals in a row set by European champions Italy last year — but it also means their main group rivals Ivory Coast can seize the initiative by beating Equatorial Guinea at the same venue on Wednesday.

The heat and humidity of a midafternoon kick-off at the Japoma Stadium in Cameroon’s economic capital undoubtedly didn’t help, but Sierra Leone deserve enormous credit for their display.

Ranked 108th in the world, they were bolstered by the presence of former Tottenham Hotspur player Steven Caulker — who has one England cap and goal to his name — in central defence, while China-based Mohamed Buya Turay was lively on the left wing.

Sierra Leone will now be hoping to use the result as a springboard to the last 16, with the best third-placed sides progressing from the group stage in what is now a 24-team competition.

John Keister’s team were backed by vociferous support inside the stadium, although the overall attendance in the 50,000-seat ground would barely have reached four figures.

read also:Toni Kroos set for contract extension at the Bernabeu

Alhaji Kamara, who plays for Danish side Randers, came close with an snapshot for Sierra Leone, while Turay also tested Rais M’Bolhi in the first half.

Kamara then had an effort disallowed for offside after the break before Brahimi’s glorious missed opportunity at the other end.

Mahrez was denied when Kamara got his fingertips to a low shot that seemed destined for the bottom corner, while West Ham United’s Said Benrahma to drag a shot wide late on, shortly after coming on a substitute. Ramy Bensebaini was also denied by Kamara at the death.

Algeria — who defeated Senegal in the 2019 final — face Equatorial Guinea in their next game on Sunday, while Sierra Leone take on Ivory Coast on the same day.

 

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Germany wing-back Gosens joins Inter Milan from Atalanta

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Inter Milan have completed the signing of Germany international Robin Gosens from Atalanta on a deal until 2026, the Italian champions announced on Thursday.

Gosens has signed a four and a half year contract in Milan and moves on loan with an obligation to buy.

The 27-year-old becomes the Serie A leaders’ first signing of the January transfer window and will compete with Ivan Perisic for the left wing-back spot in Simone Inzaghi’s side.

“I’m so proud to have joined one of the biggest clubs in Europe,” Gosens said. “I’m thrilled to be here and can’t wait to get started.

“It wasn’t a difficult decision for me. I didn’t need any convincing because I also know it’s a huge club.

“Some incredible German players have made history at this club. I hope to be part of that myself. That’s my ambition.”

Inter’s statement did not mention a fee, but Sky Italia reported that the buyout clause is set at 25 million euros ($27.87 million) plus three million euros in bonuses.

Gosens played a key role at Atalanta achieving three consecutive third-place finishes in Serie A, and started every match for Germany at Euro 2020 last year.

However, this season the left wing-back has been sidelined since September with a hamstring injury and is not expected to return for at least another month.

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Read Also: Mane and Salah on track for AFCON final showdown

Gosens joined Atalanta from Dutch club Heracles in June 2017 and became one of the best wing-backs in Serie A.

The German’s threat going forward flourished in Gian Piero Gasperini’s attack-minded side and Gosens has scored 20 goals and provided 14 assists over the last two seasons.

He has been limited to eight appearances in all competitions this term, scoring twice, before suffering injury in a Champions League group match against Young Boys.

The Nerazzurri are four points clear in Serie A, with a game in hand over Napoli and AC Milan below them.

They face their local rivals in the Milan derby on February 5 in a key moment for the title race.

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AFCON: Injury blow for AC Milan and Senegal’s Ballo-Toure

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Ballo Toure

Bad news continues to arrive from the African Cup of Nations because AC Milan will be without Fode Ballo-Toure for some time.

The Milan defender suffered an adductor injury in the round of 16 game he played with Senegal at AFCON earlier this week. He came on inside the final quarter of the game but was unable to finish it, coming off in pain during the fifth minute of added time at the end of the 90.

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According to Calciomercato.com – who cite an announcement from the Senegalese Football Association – Ballo-Toure’s tournament is over and he will play no further part in his country’s run.

The statement from them explains that the injury will keep the defender out for three weeks, which is a worry for the Rossoneri given that Theo Hernandez is one yellow card away from reaching the threshold for a one-game ban, with no natural back-up aside from Ballo-Toure.

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Mane and Salah on track for AFCON final showdown

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Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have helped Liverpool conquer England and Europe, now both crave Africa Cup of Nations winners’ medals.

Both sharpshooters will be in quarter-finals action on Sunday in Cameroon with Mane-inspired Senegal tackling surprise packets Equatorial Guinea while Salah and his Egypt teammates confront Morocco.

Mane says he would “swap all the medals he has won for a Cup of Nations gold gong” while Salah talks of the “desperation of the Egyptian people for another title” after last being champions in 2010.

If they continue winning, twice runners-up Senegal and record seven-time champions Egypt will meet in the February 6 final of the marquee African sporting event.

Here, supersport.com looks ahead to the quarterfinals with Tunisia, Cameroon, Egypt and Senegal favoured, but shocks are almost inevitable in a tournament where the form book has constantly been mocked.

BURKINA FASO V TUNISIA

One of the biggest shocks came last weekend when struggling Tunisia took the lead over previously impressive Nigeria through veteran Youssef Msakni and held on for a 1-0 last-16 triumph.

The Carthage Eagles should be stronger on Saturday as they welcome back head coach Mondher Kebaier and several stars, including captain and forward Wahbi Khazri, who have recovered from coronavirus.

Tunisia have been unpredictable and are the only quarterfinalists to lose twice in Cameroon, but Burkina Faso have been equally hard to judge when winning once, drawing twice and losing once.

The countries have met twice at the last-eight stage with the Stallions winning both and hopes of a ‘hat-trick’ will hinge heavily on how well captain and Aston Villa forward Bertrand Traore performs.

CAMEROON V GAMBIA

Five-time champions Cameroon have scored nine goals in four outings — the most of any contender — but the Indomitable Lions are also the only one of the quarter-finalists to concede in every match.

Six of the goals have come from captain and tournament chart-topper Vincent Aboubakar and fellow forward Karl Toko Ekambi has netted the other three, so Gambia know where the main threats will come from.

Debutants Gambia have been the surprise team among the 24 qualifiers, defying being ranked 150th in the world to remain unbeaten and conceding only once, from a penalty.

Musa Barrow from Italian Serie A club Bologna has become an overnight star in Cameroon and Ablie Jallow is another Gambian Cameroon need to shackle.

EGYPT V MOROCCO

This showdown between north African giants stands out as the highlight of the four quarter-finals with Morocco holding a 3-2 lead from previous Cup of Nations tournament clashes.

Egypt showed the defensive solidity the country is famed for when holding a star-studded Ivory Coast attack goalless in the round of 16 before winning on penalties.

Salah works tirelessly but has scored only once in Cameroon — the winner against Guinea-Bissau — and the extra shooting practice ordered by coach Carlos Queiroz has yet to deliver dividends.

Morocco boast potential match-winners in forwards Youssef En-Nesyri and Sofiane Boufal while last-16 victims Malawi will attest to the free-kick expertise of Paris Saint-Germain full-back Achraf Hakimi.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA V SENEGAL

Mane says he is “very well” and “what does not kill you makes you stronger” amid concerns that he may have been concussed in a collision with Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha in a laboured last-16 win.

Read Also: AFCON: Egypt quarterfinal clash with Morocco moved forward by CAF

Only when the Cape Verdeans were reduced to nine men by two red cards did Senegal score, and they have failed to find the net in two of four matches.

But a defence marshalled by Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly with Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy behind him has not conceded a goal — they are the only quarter-finalists to achieve four clean sheets.

Having ended the 35-match unbeaten run of Algeria and upset Mali after a shoot-out, the Equatoguineans will look to outstanding central defenders Saul Coco and Esteban Obiang to contain Mane.

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