Along with Group C, Group of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) was widely regarded as the toughest group drawn with the likes of Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Mali all very capable of advancing from and/or winning the group.
[ MORE: All of PST’s 2015 AFCON coverage ]
Tuesday’s group openers displayed a touch of the perceived parity that makes Group D so hotly contested, as both games finished in 1-1 draws, leaving everyone level in the group standings. Saturday may have been a new day of games for Group D, but the scores remained the same.
Ivory Coast 1-1 Mali
As they did against Guinea in their opening game, Ivory Coast went a goal down early on before snatching a draw from the jaws of defeat minutes before the final whistle.
Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Bakary Sako put Mali a goal to the good with a clinical half-volley from 12 yards out after six minutes. Guingamp (France) midfielder Sambou Yatabare delivered a cross from the right side which found Sako unmarked at the back post, but still with plenty of work to do to redirect the pacy cross low and to the far post.
Mali were minutes away from three points and lots of breathing room atop Group D before Max Gradel’s slow-roller from 13 yards out snuck under Soumbeila Diakite’s outstretched arms and found the back of the net. 1-1 on the day (again), and everything to play for as Ivory Coast and Cameroon meet on Wednesday (1 pm ET).
And then there was this, presented without comment, from Ivory Coast and Manchester City forward Wilfried Bony. Poor, poor Molla Wague (No. 23, Mali):
[ FULL PREVIEW: PST’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations preview ]
Cameroon 1-1 Guinea
The day’s second game, much like the first, got off to a quick start when Cameroon and Reims midfielder Benjamin Moukandjo’s clever flick of a corner kick at the near post found its way past Naby-Moussa Yattara in the 13th minute. Moukandjo did very little to redirect the ball on frame, but from less than a yard from goal, Yattara could do very little to keep it out.
Guinea equalized shortly before halftime, though, as Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Ibrahima Traore scored a stunning goal after creating his own space for the shot. Surrounded by green shirts near the top of the Cameroon penalty area, Traore dragged the defense one way with a pair of close-control touches, reversed course and unleashed a powerful, left-footed shot which found its way just inside Fabrice Ondoa’s left-hand post.
And with that, the entirety of Group D is level on two points, two goals scored, two goals conceded and a goal differential of zero. We’re right back where we started a week and a half ago.
Sunday’s AFCON schedule
Gabon vs. Equatorial Guinea (1 pm ET)
Congo vs. Burkina Faso (1 pm ET)