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Sierra Leone and debutant Gambia the African Cup surprises

Sierra Leone capitalized on a terrible goalkeeper error deep in injury time for a 2-2 draw against two-time champion Ivory Coast on Sunday in another major surprise at the African Cup of Nations.

Ivorian goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangaré stumbled and fell while trying to gather a header back from one of his defenders that was going out for a corner, and the ball slipped out of his grasp. Alhaji Kamara was there to score the equalizer in the 93rd minute, after also slipping himself.

Sierra Leone is enjoying its first appearance at the African Cup in 26 years. It held defending champion Algeria 0-0 in its first game in Group E.

Mali's Adama 'Noss' Traore, centre, heads the ball as he attempts a shot on goal defended by Gambia's goalkeeper Modou Jobe, right, during the African Cup of Nations 2022 group F soccer match between Gambia and Mali at Omnisport Stadium in Limbe, Cameroon, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP PhotoSunday Alamba)

Having been seconds away from victory, Ivory Coast clung on to avoid defeat amid chaos at the end when Sangaré was taken off on a stretcher after hurting himself giving the goal away. Defender Serge Aurier had to stand in as goalkeeper for the remaining minute as Ivory Coast had used all its substitutions.

Sierra Leone isn't the only team throwing up big surprises at the African championship in Cameroon.

Gambia, playing in its first major tournament ever, held Mali 1-1 earlier Sunday and surprisingly leads Group F ahead of the Malians and former champion Tunisia.

Gambia's Musa Barrow, far right, scores his team's first goal, during the African Cup of Nations 2022 group F soccer match between Gambia and Mali at Omnisport Stadium in Limbe, Cameroon, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP PhotoSunday Alamba)

Tunisia recovered convincingly from its opening loss to Mali to beat Mauritania 4-0, aided by a double from captain Wahbi Khazri.

But no one would have thought that debutant Gambia, previously best known for being the smallest country in mainland Africa, would be topping that group heading into the final group games.

Ivory Coast imploded despite controlling the late stages against Sierra Leone and having worked so hard to get itself into a winning position.

Tunisia's Wahbi Khazri, right, celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's second goal, during the African Cup of Nations 2022 group F soccer match between Tunisia and Mauritania at the Omnisport Stadium in Limbe, Cameroon, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP PhotoSunday Alamba)

Franck Kessié of AC Milan missed a penalty for Ivory Coast in the 12th minute, or rather saw it saved brilliantly by Sierra Leone 'keeper Mohamed Kamara, the hero of the draw against mighty Algeria.

Ajax forward Sébastien Haller did eventually put Ivory Coast ahead in the 25th.

But Musa Kamara thundered an equalizer into the net for Sierra Leone in the 55th and Ivory Coast had to battle again.

Tunisia's Wahbi Khazri, centre, vies for the ball with Mauritania's El Hassen Houbeibib, during the African Cup of Nations 2022 group F soccer match between Tunisia and Mauritania at the Omnisport Stadium in Limbe, Cameroon, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP PhotoSunday Alamba)

Nicolas Pépé seemed to have won it with his smoothly taken goal only for Sangaré's blunder to change it all at the end.

Ivory Coast would have been in the knockout stages if it had held on for the win but must now face defending Algeria in its final group game with its fate still in the balance.

Algeria plays Equatorial Guinea later Sunday in its second group game.

Tunisia's Hamza Mathlouthi, foreground, celebrates with teammate Bilel Ifa after scoring his team's first goal, during the African Cup of Nations 2022 group F soccer match between Tunisia and Mauritania, at the Omnisport Stadium in Limbe, Cameroon, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP PhotoSunday Alamba)

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Mali's Ibrahima Kone, centre, celebrates with teammates and fans after scoring his team's first goal, during the African Cup of Nations 2022 group F soccer match between Gambia and Mali at Omnisport Stadium, in Limbe, Cameroon, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP PhotoSunday Alamba)

Gambia's Musa Barrow, right, vies for the ball with Mali's Hamidou Traore, during the African Cup of Nations 2022 group F soccer match between Gambia and Mali at Omnisport Stadium in Limbe, Cameroon, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP PhotoSunday Alamba)

Mali's Boubacar Kiki Kouyate kicks the ball during the African Cup of Nations 2022 group F soccer match between Gambia and Mali at Omnisport Stadium in Limbe, Cameroon, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP PhotoSunday Alamba)

Soldiers attend a briefing at Limbe Omnisport Stadium ahead of the African Cup of Nations 2022 group F soccer match between Gambia and Mali at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium in Limbe, Cameroon, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP PhotoSunday Alamba)

A general view of Limbe Omnisport Stadium ahead of the the African Cup of Nations 2022 group F soccer match between Gambia and Mali at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium in Limbe, Cameroon, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP PhotoSunday Alamba)