In the very first 24 team AFCON, 2 of 4 best losers have found themselves in the last 8. Football fans considered some pairings as mission impossible for the teams with that ‘best loser’ tag, facing difficult opponents like: Egypt and Morocco — but South Africa and Benin had other ideas.
The Squirrels of Benin are yet to win an AFCON game in regular playing time but who cares? Captain Stephane Sessegnon and co are into the quarterfinals of the AFCON after a run of 4 draws; 3 draws in the group stage earning them a spot in the last 16 as one of four best losers, before separating on a parity and emerging winners on post match penalties against the dreaded, feared, and one time favorites; the Atlas Lions of Morocco.
The men of Michel Dussuyer kept their cool against Morocco to beat them 4-1 on spot kick’s after a resilient 120 minutes of football. Goal keeper Saturnin Alagbe sent out two big hands to parrie the effort of En Nesyri away while S. Boufal skied his effort up and over the upright.
After the spirited display by Benin, South Africa was next. The Bafana Bafana of South Africa did not only oust host Egypt, but did it in regular playing time of 90, with some wonderful interchange of passes that fell to Lebo Mothiba, who then teed up T. Lorch in a pocket of space for him to side foot S.A into the quarterfinals, and also side foot Egypt’s hope of winning the title on home soil for the first time since 2010: long period by their standards. Just like that, the Cairo international stadium of 75 thousands plus was desecrated.
The other two best losers (DRC and Guinea) lost to Madagascar and Algeria respectively. The DRC came from behind twice during normal time to equalise, but some horrible penalty kicks from Marcel Tisserand and Yannick Bolasie cost them the game. Guinea incurred the heaviest loss (0-3) against Algeria.