Egypt, the seven-time African champion, qualified for the last-16 of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) by defeating Sudan 1-0, a result that also qualified five other countries, including Ivory Coast.
Meanwhile, Nigeria won their third consecutive group with a 2-0 victory against Guinea-Bissau, leaving runners-up Egypt to face the winners of Group E in the following round, as well as a possible clash with the Ivorians.
Ivory Coast, Mali, Gambia, Malawi, and Cape Verde all qualified without kicking a ball after Mohamed Abdelmonem’s header at a corner 10 minutes before halftime in Yaounde took the Pharaohs through and eliminated Sudan.
“Given the possibilities we created and the football we played, I believe Egypt deserved to win this game without a doubt,” Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz stated.
“We made a mistake by not scoring the second goal. The game is over once you score the second goal. I’ll state it plainly: I’ll be thrilled if I can win all of my games 1-0 till the end.”
Cape Verde and Malawi will qualify as two of the four best third-placed teams as a result of Egypt’s triumph.
Ivory Coast leads Group E with four points and, regardless of their result against reigning champions Algeria on Thursday, can finish no lower than third.
Gambia and Mali are in the same boat in Group F, with four points from two games each.
In other matches, Nigeria extended their strong start to the campaign by pushing Guinea-Bissau aside thanks to goals from Umar Sadiq and captain William Troost-Ekong in the second half.
With the top slot already secured, Nigeria caretaker coach Augustine Eguavoen made eight changes to his team, but it was Kelechi Iheanacho – the match-winner against Egypt – who sent the cross for Sadiq to knock in on 56 minutes.
Moses Simon came off the bench to play a key role in Nigeria’s second goal, twisting past two players in the box before hitting the crossbar with a shot.
On Sunday, the Super Eagles will play a third-placed team in the last-16 in Garoua.
On January 25, Cape Verde will face Senegal’s Sadio Mane in Bafoussam, while Malawi will face Morocco in Yaounde after reaching the knockout stages for the first time.
After the final round of matches in Group E and Group F on Thursday, the remaining three berths will be determined.
Algeria, whose 35-match unbeaten streak was snapped by Equatorial Guinea, needs to overcome Ivory Coast in Douala to avoid a shock early exit after only one point from two games.
Cameroon, a five-time champion, will host the 33rd edition of Africa’s top football competition, which takes place every two years.
After the group stage, which has 24 nations divided into six groups and concludes on January 20, the last-16 will take place from January 23 to 26.
On February 6, the final will be held in Yaounde’s Olembe Stadium.