Salah ruled out of two Afcon games as Senegal, Cape Verde reach last 16

Saturday January 20 2024

Senegal's forward Habib Diallo (L) celebrates scoring his team's second goal with teammates during the Africa Cup of Nations 2024 group C football match between Senegal and Cameroon at the Stade Charles Konan Banny in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast on January 19, 2024. PHOTO | AFP


Record seven-time champions Egypt were dealt a major blow on Friday as captain Mohamed Salah was ruled out of two Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) games with a hamstring injury, while holders Senegal and Cape Verde qualified for the last 16.

The Egyptian Football Association confirmed in a statement that Liverpool star Salah would not be able to return for his country unless they reach the quarterfinals at the tournament. 

The 31-year-old came off late in the first half of the Pharaohs' 2-2 draw with Ghana on Thursday.

He will therefore sit out Monday's final group game against Cape Verde and any last-16 tie that would follow that.

After drawing their opening two games, Egypt needs to beat Cape Verde to be guaranteed of advancing in second place in Group B.

Read: Salah rescues Egypt as Nigeria draw, Ghana lose at Afcon


That would tee up a last-16 tie in San-Pedro on January 28, while they could also potentially qualify as one of the best third-placed teams.

Salah will therefore only feature again at the competition if Egypt make it to a quarter-final on February 2 or 3.

Senegal, who beat Salah's Egypt on penalties in the final of the last Afcon, clinched a spot in the next round with one group game to spare thanks to a 3-1 win over Cameroon in Yamoussoukro.

Ismaila Sarr of Marseille put the reigning champions ahead early on and later set up Habib Diallo to make it 2-0.

Jean-Charles Castelletto pulled one back, but Senegal was not to be denied a convincing victory and talisman Sadio Mane put the outcome beyond doubt late on.

Senegal has a maximum six points after two Group C matches, while Cameroon have only one and their hopes of advancing to the last 16 are in the balance.

Read: It is going to be tough for champions Senegal, warns Mane

"I remember that in 2017 we lost to Cameroon in the quarterfinals, so during this match we did everything to win," said Marseille forward Sarr. 

Bebe stunner

Later on in Group C Guinea, again missing star striker Serhou Guirassy, beat Gambia 1-0 at the same venue thanks to Aguibou Camara's second-half goal.

The result leaves Guinea second in the section on four points, meaning they need just a draw against Senegal in their next match to guarantee qualification for the last 16, while a victory will see them progress as group winners.

Cameroon and Gambia will meet each other next and can both hope to at least progress as one of the four best third-placed sides.

Earlier, Cape Verde became the first team to qualify for the last 16 thanks to a convincing 3-0 win over Mozambique in Abidjan.


Mozambique’s forward Jovane Cabral (R) tackles Cape Verde's midfielder Kevin Pina during the Africa Cup of Nations 2024 group B football match between Cape Verde and Mozambique at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on January 19, 2024. PHOTO | AFP

Former Manchester United forward Bebe set the Atlantic Ocean island nation on their way with a remarkable first-half free-kick from 40 metres at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium.

Captain Ryan Mendes doubled their lead just after half-time and Kevin Pina wrapped up the win with a stunning strike midway through the second half.

Read: Senegal begins Afcon title defence with win as Cameroon, Algeria held

Cape Verde's biggest ever Afcon victory leaves them on six points from two games and means they are now certain to top Group B, after they beat Ghana 2-1 in their opening game.

"I don't know how far we can go. Now we are into the last 16 and we just need to keep working as we have been," said Mendes.

"We know it won't be easy but we believe in ourselves and in our work."

Cape Verde already know they will stay in Abidjan for a last-16 tie against a third-placed team on January 29.

Mozambique, appearing at their fifth Cup of Nations, have still never won a match in 14 attempts at the tournament.