Recently crowned ‘The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper’ Édouard Mendy spent the first week of the Africa Cup of Nations in isolation, watching his Senegal teammates secure a draw and a win in their first two games, 1-0 against Zimbabwe and 0-0 against Guinea. That meant that as long as Senegal didn’t lose in their final group game, they were guaranteed a spot in the Round of 16.
So that’s precisely what they did last night, battling Malawi to a 0-0 draw, with Mendy returning between the posts to keep their sheets spotlessly clean at the tournament. And thanks to Guinea losing to Zimbabwe in the other game in the group, Senegal actually finished top and thus will get a favorable draw against a third-place team from the group stage for next week’s knockout match.
While Senegal’s results have been underwhelming given their status as one of the favorites coming in, they’ve done better than some of the other pre-tournament favorites, such as defending champions Algeria, who have just 1 point from their first 2 games, or Mohamed Salah’s Egypt, who lost to Nigeria before squeaking past Guinea-Bissau.
The Super Eagles, featuring former Chelsea prospects Ola Aina and Kenneth Omeruo, have been one of the more impressive teams at the tournament, alongside the hosts Cameroon, who seem to be the only ones consistently able to score goals. Former Porto striker Vincent Aboubakar has scored 5 times already; nobody else, at any team, has more than 2 goals.
While Mendy has advanced, Chelsea’s representation at this continental showcase has been cut in half, with Baba Rahman’s Ghana suffering an early red card and a shock 3-2 defeat against the Comoros last night, and thus finishing bottom of Group C with just one point from the three games. This is Ghana’s worst showing at an Africa Cup of Nations since failing to make the biennial tournament entirely in 2004. Baba did play most of their minutes, but was hauled off at half-time in the third game.