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AP PHOTOS: Africa Cup is a soccer roller coaster of spills, thrills and surprises

Soccer fans at the Africa Cup of Nations have been treated to exciting matches and plenty of drama in a roller coaster of spills, thrills and surprises so far

Via AP news wire
Wednesday 31 January 2024 00:34 GMT

Soccer fans at the Africa Cup of Nations have been treated to exciting matches and plenty of drama in a roller coaster of spills, thrills and surprises so far.

Supporters are contributing to the spectacle from the stands with tireless dancing and eye-catching costumes as they cheer on their teams at the 34th edition of the biennial tournament. Associated Press photographers have been capturing the scenes in six stadiums in five cities across Ivory Coast since the opening game on Jan. 13. They’ve come to expect the unexpected.

Morocco – a favorite for many after its run to the World Cup semifinals – was knocked out Tuesday in a 2-0 loss to South Africa. It became just the latest big team to be eliminated while underdogs like Cape Verde have thrived in a tournament of upsets.

Both defending champion Senegal and seven-time champion Egypt were eliminated in penalty shootouts, while Ivory Coast’s improbable revival from an embarrassing group-stage collapse has resurrected the Elephants’ hopes of a third title. Franck Kessié scored the winning penalty in the shootout for the host nation to eliminate Senegal on Monday and set off unbridled celebrations in Yamoussoukro and beyond.

Congo goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi scored his spot kick after Egypt counterpart Mohamed Abou Gabal missed in their penalty shootout. It sent the Leopards to the quarterfinals at the Pharaohs’ expense. The Egyptian soccer federation sacrificed a cow before the game but it didn’t change the team’s luck as Egypt – which lost star player Mohamed Salah to a hamstring injury – failed to win a single game at the tournament.

Former champions Cameroon, Ghana and Algeria have also been knocked out. Cameroon goalkeeper André Onana played just one game and made no saves despite rushing from Manchester United to make the Indomitable Lions' opening game. Ghana looked set to reach the knockout stage but the Black Stars conceded two goals in injury time to finish their group with just two points.

Coaches have had a hard time at this Africa Cup. Ghana coach Chris Hughton and Ivory Coast coach Jean-Louis Gasset were both fired – the latter on the same day Ivory Coast clinched its place in the last 16.

Tempers flared at Morocco’s game with Congo, which ended in a huge melee involving players and coaching staff. But the general mood has been overwhelmingly joyful with enthusiastic fans contributing to a non-stop party in the stands and in the streets.

Mama Joy has been a prominent South Africa supporter, Senegal’s fans loudly supported the Lions of Teranga, and the Ivorians have not stopped celebrating since Kessié kept the home team’s hopes alive.

The quarterfinals start Friday.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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