Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea both won their final Group E games to advance to the Round of 16 when a draw was all they needed.
AFCON 2021: Group E review
Group E of the Africa Cup of Nations has been concluded, here is a round-up of all the action.
Equatorial Guinea edged neutrals darling Sierra Leone by a goal to nil while Ivory Coast defeated Algeria 3-1. The results mean Ivory Coast finished top of the group with seven points while Equatorial Guinea advanced as runners-up.
On the flip-side, Sierra Leone finished third with two points but not enough to keep them in the tournament while Algeria also crashed out as the bottom team with just one point.
Equatorial Guinea defied all expectations and finished the group with six points after beating Algeria and Sierra Leone by a lone goal each.
Despite Ivory Coast defeating them and finishing top of Group E unbeaten with seven points, Equatorial Guinea over-achieved greatly and cannot be overlooked.
Their only defeat was courtesy of a Max Gradel screamer in the opening round of games, there was not much else between the teams besides that.
Equatorial Guinea surpassed all pre-tournament expectations by beating the defending champions, Algeria and only conceding once in three games thanks to a rock-solid defence.
Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone played out an epic 2-2 draw at the Japoma Stadium in Douala, it was a match that had goals, drama and controversy.
The Ivorians dominated early proceedings and Wilfred Zaha soon won a penalty that was taken by Franck Kessie in the 12th minute but saved by Sierra Leone’s impressive goalkeeper, Mohamed Kamara.
Zaha continued to worry the opposition and made a more lasting impact this time, playing a neat through ball to Sebastien Haller who finished expertly.
Sierra Leone improved in the second half and Musa Noah Kamara leveled proceedings with a stunning finish after twisting and turning Eric Bailly inside out but Nicolas Pepe put Ivory Coast back in front 10 minutes later with a trademark curled finish.
What followed was arguably the biggest talking point of AFCON 2021 as Ivorian goalkeeper Ali Sangare spilled a seemingly easy back pass in calamitous fashion.
Alhadji Kamara pounced and converted a 93rd minute equaliser for Sierra Leone much to the despair of Ivory Coast who had to finish the game with Serge Aurier in goal after Sangare got injured.
Most disappointing team
Algeria came into the tournament as defending champions on a 34-game unbeaten run and favorites to win it all again but they failed woefully to live up to that expectation.
At the conclusion of the group stages, Algeria sit bottom of Group E with just one point and one goal scored. They lost two games and their unbeaten run in the process and conceded four goals, ending with a -3 goal difference.
Duhamel Belmadi's team looked a shadow of their usually vibrant selves, none of the big names in their arsenal stepped up and the team was suffering tactically.
Algeria are without a doubt the biggest disappointment not just in Group E but the entire 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
Although Sierra Leone are out of AFCON 2021 after failing to win a game, the two points they picked up from draws against Algeria and Ivory Coast will live long in the memory.
One man that was instrumental to those results was Sierra Leonian goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara. The 22-year old announced himself to the world with a man of the match performance to earn Sierra Leone that big result against Algeria.
Kamara followed that with a penalty save in the next game against Ivory Coast and ultimately played a key role in earning them another point.
Although the tournament ended in disappointment as Sierra Leone got knocked out due to a 1-0 defeat to Equatotial Guinea in the last round of group stage games, no player in Group E grabbed the headlines positively as much as Mohamed Kamara.