One goal. That was the difference. It so often is.
A tally from Jeremy Loteteka Bokila was enough to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo progress to the knockout stages of the Africa Cup of Nations, earning his side a 1-1 draw against Tunisia – their third of the group stage – that narrowly pushed them past Cape Verde for second spot in Group B.
The Tunisians top the group, while 2012 champions Zambia bring up the rear.
Here’s how it all played out on Monday in Equatorial Guinea …
Cape Verde 0, Zambia 0
No goals. No winner. No quarterfinals for anyone.
Cape Verde and Zambia were unable to find the net in their contest at the Nuevo Estadio de Ebebiyin, a result which sees both sides fail to advance out of Group B.
Cape Verde only conceded one goal in its three group stage matches, but as was the case today, the team's inability to generate opportunities at the other end of the pitch was their undoing.
In fact, it was a failing of both teams at the tournament:
Defense doesn’t always win championships, apparently.
DR Congo 1, Tunisia 1
Both sets of supporters at the Estadio de Bata went home happy, as Tunisia and DR Congo got the necessary result to see both teams into the quarterfinal stage.
While the former went through easily as group winners, Yannick Bolasie and company escaped by the smallest of margins. Both DR Congo and Cape Verde finished the group stage on three points and a goal differential of zero, but Bokila’s goal gave his side one more than their Group B combatants, which made the ultimate difference.
For just over an hour, it didn’t look like they were going to get it.
Forward Ahmed Akaichi gave the Carthage Eagles the lead in the 33rd minute, poking home a cross to put DR Congo on the verge of elimination.
But Bokila found the all-important equalizer in the 66th minute. And what a goal it was:
Not bad for a substitute who had only been on the field for six minutes. Who needs time to acclimatize themselves to the speed and rhythm of the match when you can come in and do this right away?
Here are the final standings from an incredibly tight Group B:
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