An extra time goal allowed Egypt to win the third edition of the 2019 African Men’s U23 Cup of Nations. The event also doubled as the continental qualifier for Africa where the three highest ranked nations qualified a team to compete at the Olympics. Overall, eight nations qualified to the tournament where they played in two groups of four teams with the top two advancing to the semi-finals. The African Men’s U23 Cup of Nations was held in two stadiums in Cairo, Egypt from November 8th to November 22nd 2019.
Group A was won by host nation Egypt where they went undefeated. It wasn’t easy for the nation as they were losing 2-1 to Ghana during the second round of matches, but two goals in the final ten minutes allowed the nation to win 3-2. Second place came down to Cameroon and Ghana as the two nations drew each other 1-1 during the first round of matches. In terms of goal differential, it was Ghana whom had a better one, thanks to a 2-0 victory over Mali during the final set of matches, allowing the nation to have a +1 goal differential over Cameroon’s even differential.
Going into the final set of matches in Group B all four teams had a plausible chance to advance or be eliminated. Needing only a draw to advance, South Africa played a very defensive game against Nigeria, holding them to a 0-0 draw. This allowed South Africa to finish with five overall points to Nigeria’s four points. The second match saw Cote d’Ivoire win the group thanks to a 61st minute goal by Kouadio-Yves Dabila as they defeated Zambia 1-0 to finish with a total of six points. Zambia finished fourth with only a single point in three games.
The semi-finals and first opportunity to qualify to the Olympics saw a stoppage time goal by Ghana to draw Cote d’Ivoire 2-2. After extra time solved nothing, the ensuing penalty shoot-out was won by Cote d’Ivoire 3-2. Egypt had a relatively easier time winning their match over South Africa as they scored a penalty kick during the 59th minute and sealed their ticket to Tokyo with two more goals during the final ten minutes to win the game 3-0.
The final Olympic quota was decided during the third-place match where an unfortunate own goal gave South Africa the 1-0 lead during the 15th minute. Ghana would tie things up in the 50th while South Africa responded in the 62nd. An 85th minute goal by Samuel Obeng gave Ghana their second goal as the two teams remained tied after 90 minutes. No extra time was played as the two teams went into a shoot-out where South Africa prevailed after eight rounds, winning 6-5. The gold medal match saw a late goal by Cote d’Ivoire’s Aboubacar Doumbia to tie the game 1-1 to send it to extra time. It was however, Egypt’s Ramadan Sobhi who scored the winning goal in the 114th minute to win the title 2-1.
This was the only opportunity for African men’s teams to qualify to the Olympics. The women’s team will be determined in January while the next men’s continental qualifier will be in Asia also to be held in January.