Equatorial Guinea conceded just once in their three group games, and were proving a particularly tough nut to crack in a cagey first half. Ibrahima Koné netted in each of Mali’s group games, and had the best chance of the half in the early stages, but he somehow failed to hit the target from close range. RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara squandered a glorious chance before the break, as he completely failed to make proper contact with the ball from a set-piece. Mali thought they’d won a hugely controversial penalty moments before the interval, as Moussa Doumbia was bundled over after a challenge by Josete Miranda. However, VAR intervened to overturn the referee’s decision, with Doumbia already off balance when he went to ground.
Mali continued to waste gilt-edged chances after the restart. Yves Bissouma did brilliantly to find space in the box before sliding in Mohamed Camara, but with the goal at his mercy, he blazed his shot over the bar. The game hit a lull as both teams readied their armies of substitutes, with the game looking destined for extra time.
Equatorial Guinea found fresh energy as the game progressed and carried that into extra time. Basilio Ndong unleashed a shot from outside the box that bounced awkwardly in front of Ibrahim Mounkoro, but the goalkeeper did well to turn the ball round the post. Fatigue was clearly starting to set in as both sides struggled to find the necessary quality in the final third, meaning penalties would be the deciding factor in Limbe.
Emilio Nsue blazed the first spot-kick over the bar, but Owono restored parity by denying Massadio Haïdara. Hamari Traoré was the next to falter, missing the target in wild fashion, before Pablo Ganet squandered the chance to send Equatorial Guinea into the last eight. Into sudden death, seven converted penalties were followed by an unsuccessful attempt from Sacko, whose effort was saved by Owono. Incredibly, that’s the third time the ‘National Thunder’ has reached the quarter-finals of AFCON, a 100% success rate from their finals entries.