Africa Cup of Nations 2023: Mohamed Salah’s Absence Proved a Challenge Too Far as Egypt Crashed Out on Penalties Against DR Congo

The Africa Cup of Nations 2023 has already brought out plenty of surprises and many storylines, with last year’s runner-ups Algeria crashing out in the group stage and host nation Ivory Coast sacking their manager Jean-Louis Gasset after suffering their biggest home defeat in history. Nonetheless, the stories keep pouring in the knockout stage today as Egypt, without their star player and captain, crashed out of the Africa Cup of Nations 2023 after a dramatic 8-7 loss against DR Congo on penalties. It means the seven-time champions have to wait another year for their first Africa Cup of Nations since 2010. 

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Africa Cup of Nations 2023 Round of 16: DR Congo Goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi Converts Winning Spot-Kick 

It was a nervy day for both teams as neither team recorded a victory or a loss thus far in the Africa Cup of Nations, as Egypt and Congo each qualified in second place in their group with three draws. Moreover, without the flair and reputation of Mohamed Salah, the game looked to be heading towards a stalemate. 

However, DR Congo broke the deadlock in the 37th minute as Meschak Elia netted a header from close range amidst an appeal from the Egyptian side. Despite Egypt dominating possession in the lead-up before the goal, Congo snatched the lead when they took a throw-in that Egypt claimed should have been theirs and, which Elia nodded into the net at the far post while some players continued the appeal. Although VAR did monitor the situation, the goal stood, and Congo took the lead.

With tempers flaring, Egypt pushed on and got a penalty in added time of the first half when VAR came into play again after notifying the referee of Dylan Batubinsika’s elbow on Egypt captain Ahmed Hegazy’s face. Mostafa Mohamed calmly slotted the resulting penalty as the teams headed into the break. Nothing meaningful changed in the second half and extra time as both teams turned towards penalty shootouts in search of a winner. After a dramatic 18 penalties, Congo came out on top in this Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 matchup as Goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi coveted the final spot kick and sent Egypt home.

Lionel Mpasi Felt Confident In His Penalty

After seeing his counterpart Mohamed Abou Gabal hit the bar with his penalty, many felt Lionel Mpasi would do the same and miss, as keepers are notorious for blazing penalties across the bar. However, Lionel Mpasi said that he was confident despite the pressure. “We practised penalties a lot in training over the last few days, and I knew I would need to be ready.”

He continued: “When I saw Gabaski shoot, we were looking each other in the eyes, and I could see he looked a bit nervous. When I put the ball on the spot, I just try to remain calm. I thought about the last penalty I took in training, and luckily it went well.

As for Mohamed Salah, it was another dream over as many criticised him for leaving the national team in favour of better rehabilitation facilities in Liverpool. In response, Salah took to Twitter and said: “I started the treatment and rehabilitation program, and I will do everything possible to be ready as soon as possible and return to the national team as was agreed upon from the beginning. I also love Egypt and its people.”

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Two Weeks Left Before We Crowned the Champions of the Africa Cup of Nations 2023

With record champions Egypt and last year’s finalist Algeria crashing out, Senegal and Nigeria will be looking towards the coveted trophy with hungry eyes as the two are on paper favourites to now meet in the finals on February 12th.

However, we have seen favourites crash and burn more times than we have in these few years, and with the magic of football, especially in Africa, anything can happen. 

To catch the latest news on the Africa Cup of Nations 2023, follow AsiaSport for daily updates on the competitions and many others occurring throughout the footballing world.

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