The sensational story of The Gambia continues at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. At their very first major international tournament, FIFA's 150th ranked footballing nation another claimed a major upset with a 1-0 win over Guinea in Tuesday's round-of-16 action.
The Gambian "Scorpions" progress to the quarterfinals behind a second consecutive shutout from keeper Baboucarr Gaye, a Bielefeld native. Guinea's loss spells the end of the tournament dream for Leipzig attacker Ilaix Moriba.
In Tuesday's other round-of-16 fixture Bayern striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting got his first start of the tournament for Cameroon. The "Indomitable Lions" managed to hold off a COVID-stricken Comoros side 2-1 to set up a meeting with The Gambia in the quarters.
Entering the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, Rot-Weiß-Koblenz keeper Baboucarr Gaye was considered the third-choice keeper on one of the tournament's lowest-ranked sides. Playing time prospects for the Bielefeld native, who spent time in both the Arminia and Stuttgart youth academies before settling in the Pfalz, appeared slim.
Indeed, Gaye did not start the first two fixtures. Veteran Modou Jobe handled the net against Mauritania and Mali. Gaye was given the gloves for the final group stage match against the North African powerhouse of Tunisa. The 23-year-old managed to keep a clean sheet in surprise 1-0 victory for the underdogs. Gaye did the same today against favorites Guinea, who the Gambia defeated 1-0 today in the tournament's first elimination round.
The Gambians squared off against a Guinean squad missing Liverpool's Kaby Keita due to suspension. The National Elephants nevertheless fielded a potent XI that featured A.S. Roma's Amadou Diawara, Clermont Foot's Mohamed Bayo, former Legia Warsaw striker José Kanté, and RB Leipzig's Ilaix Moriba. The Bundesliga representative in the Syli Nationale started his third consecutive match of the tournament.
The two sides appeared rather evenly matched during the opening 45, splitting possession evenly and generating roughly an equal amount of chances. Gaye didn't have much to do as the majority of the Guinean chances sailed well past his posts, including two from Moriba. The Leipzig man got perhaps his best look at goal during a nice run inside in the box five minutes after the restart. A fine block from Gambian defender Omar Colley ensured that Gaye did not have to intervene.
Bologna forward Musa Barrow put the Gambians ahead in the 72nd with his second goal of the tournament. Three minutes from time, the underdogs were reduced to ten-men after substitute Yusupha Njie's sending off. The Guineans would also lose a man, Ibrahima Conté, in injury time. Keeper Gaye found himself rescued both by the post and the crossbar during a frantic final minutes. Thanks to the aluminum, there would be equalizer. Gaye finished with seven saves on the day. Moriba got five efforts off and assisted on a further two in the losing effort.
In other Bundesliga-related AFCON news, Bayern's Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was entrusted with his second start of the competition by Cameroon trainer Toni Conceiçao. The FCB attacker lined up alongside tournament scoring leader Vincent Aboubakar in a 4-4-2. Choupo-Moting got few touches and only a pair of half chances in during a 63-minute-shift.
Though the tournament hosts advanced via a 2-1 win over heavy underdogs the Comoros, the Coelacanths put in a lionhearted performance under the circumstances. A COVID outbreak actually left the Indian Ocean Islanders without a keeper. A seventh-minute straight red saw them reduced to ten men. Somehow, with an untrained left-back in goal, and a man-disadvantage, the AFCON debutants held their own against the Indomitable Lions.
|13||M. Aly Camara|
|6||A. Diawara (C)|
|23||A. Camara ↪75|
|14||M. Kourouma Kourouma|
|20||P. Konate ↪83|
|11||M. Bayo ↪83|
|21||S. Kaba ↩83|
|2||M. Sylla ↩75|
|10||M. Guilavogui ↩83|
|27||Gaoussou Youssouf Siby|
|13||P. Jagne (C)|
|2||Y. Bobb ↪90|
|3||A. Jallow ↪63|
|8||E. Darboe ↪72|
|11||M. Barrow ↪72|
|10||M. Barrow ⚽|
|9||A. Ceesay ↩72|
|27||Y. Njie ↩72|
|16||M. Mbye ↩90|
|19||E. Colley ↩63|