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Senegal and Guinea into last 16 as Rwandan woman Salima Mukansanga makes AFCON history

It was an afternoon of surprises in Cameroon.

Naby Keita under pressure from Never Tigere during Guinea's defeat to Zimbabwe this afternoon.
Naby Keita under pressure from Never Tigere during Guinea's defeat to Zimbabwe this afternoon.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

SENEGAL WERE HELD 0-0 by minnows Malawi in Bafoussam today despite the return of stars Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly and Idrissa Gueye, but still won Group B at the Africa Cup of Nations.

On an afternoon of surprises, Guinea fell 2-1 to already-eliminated Zimbabwe in Yaounde and scraped into the round of 16 as runners-up thanks to a better head-to-head record than Malawi.

Brave Malawi finished third and must wait until Thursday to see if they will be among the best four third-placed teams and qualify for the second round.

Senegal came to the Cup of Nations as one of the favourites but have won only once and scored only once — from a Sadio Mane penalty — in three matches.

Malawi believed they should have been awarded a penalty in the second half when Gomezgani Chirwa had his shirt pulled by Bouna Sarr, but the referee disagreed after looking at the VAR monitor.

Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy and Napoli defender Koulibaly missed the first two matches, and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Gueye the second, due to positive coronavirus tests.

Zimbabwe triumphed at the flagship African tournament for the first time since 2006 when they held on for victory over previously impressive Guinea.

A Knowledge Musona header and a Kudakwashe Mahachi shot gave the Zimbabweans a two-goal half-time advantage that was reduced when Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita netted on 49 minutes.

Rwandan Salima Mukansanga became the first woman to referee an Africa Cup of Nations match when she oversaw the clash between Guinea and Zimbabwe.

On Monday, a Confederation of African Football (CAF) statement said Mukansanga would handle the match with two female assistant referees, Carine Atemzabong of Cameroon and Fatiha Jermoumi of Morocco.

yaounde-cameroon-january-18-women-referee-salima-mukansanga-during-the-2021-africa-cup-of-nations-group-b-match-between-zimababwe-and-guinea-at-stade-ahmadou-ahidjo-on-january-18-2022-in-yaounde Salima Mukansanga on duty in Yaounde. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

However, when the officials entered the pitch for the match at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in the Cameroonian capital, both assistant referees were males. CAF did not immediately explain why the assistant referees were changed.

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Mukansanga created history after the previous 32 editions of the flagship African tournament from 1957 were refereed exclusively by men. Previously the Rwandan was the fourth official when Guinea defeated Malawi on 10 January in Bafoussam.

“We are super proud of Salima because she has had to work exceptionally hard to be where she is today,” said Confederation of African Football (CAF) referees’ boss Eddy Maillet from the Seychelles.

“We know that as a woman she had to overcome serious obstacles to reach this level and she deserves a lot of credit. This moment is not just for Salima, but every young girl in Africa who has passion for football and who sees herself as a referee in the future.”

The final Group C matches are scheduled for this evening, with Morocco facing Gabon in Yaounde and the Comoros meeting Ghana in Garoua.

– © AFP 2022

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