AFCON 2021: Group F review

With Group D of the Africa Cup of Nations now concluded, here is a round-up of all the action from the six games.

Gambia substitute Ablie Jallow (3R) celebrates with teammates after scoring the goal that beat Tunisia in an Africa Cup of Nations Group F match in Limbe on Thursday

Mali and Gambia ended Group F level on seven points each, with the Malians winning the group on goal difference. But the biggest story would be how the Gambians - who are making an appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) for the first time in their history - stunned the more experienced Tunisia and Mauritania.

With Mauritania now confirmed eliminated, and Mali, Gambia as well as Tunisia all progressing to the knockout round, we review all the events from Group F.

AFCON debutants Gambia, showed class as they continued their stunning debut campaign with a 1-0 win over Tunisia. Substitute Ablie Jallow scored a goal deep into stoppage time to earn the Scorpions a shock win at the Limbe Stadium in an AFCON littered with upsets.

Gambia who have thrived at keeping a well-drilled defence line all competition ensured Tunisia found it difficult to break through, with Gambia's goalkeeper Baboucar Gaye also stopping a penalty kick in the process.

At the start of the competition, 23-year-old midfielder Ablie Jallow was known as Gambia first-ever goalscorer at the AFCON. Now at the end of the group stages, he is not only that, but also Gambia's current top scorer (2), Gambia's most man of the match-winner, and the player to score Gambia match-winning goals at the AFCON on two occasions.

The winger for Belgian First Division A club Seraing, on loan from Ligue 1 club Metz, has had a hand in most parts of Gambia's brilliance at AFCON despite never playing all 90 minutes for the Scorpions.

With three goals to his name, Ibrahima Kone finished the group stage as both Mali highest goal scorer and the highest goal scorer from group F.

As Mali's designated penalty taker, Kone was responsible for converting all of Mali's spot-kicks awarded to them in the group stage. One against Tunisia in their opening game gave them all three points. Another against Gambia in their second game opened the scoring before Gambia levelled from the spot also. And the third penalty in their final game against Mauritania sealed a 2-0 win.

Mali got off to a winning start in Group F with a 1-0 win against Tunisia in what was perhaps, the most controversial game of the tournament. Kone’s second-half penalty made the difference as they extended their win streak to five games, but it was the performance of referee Janny Sikazwe that ended up being the game's biggest talking point.

The one-time CAF Referee of the Year nominee was the centre of chaos for almost fifteen minutes after he issued a harsh red card to Malian substitute El Bilal Toure, ignored VAR suggestions to reverse his decision and not once but twice signalled the end of the match in the 85th and 89th minutes.

Mali would go on to win the game 1-0 after Tunisia refused CAF's directives to return to the field to complete the remaining minutes.

Despite their 4-0 win over Mauritania, and advancing as a third-placed team, Tunisia were the most disappointing team in Group F. The fourth-ranked team in Africa failed to score a goal outside their win over a Mauritania game, and lost to Gambia in their final Group F game. They had to rely on results from other groups in the final round of matches to qualify as one of the four best losers. They were simply lucky.

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