Defending champion Cameroon and four-time winner Ghana drew 0-0 at the African Cup of Nations on Saturday, leaving both on perilous ground.
The match was one of three that produced zero goals in Egypt: Angola vs. Mauritania and Benin vs. Guinea-Bissau also ended 0-0.
Cameroon’s result means the title holder still leads Group F, with Ghana in second place, but either could miss out on qualifying for the last 16 if it slips up in the final round of games.
Cameroon plays Benin and Ghana faces Guinea-Bissau.
Christian Bassogog had two of the best opportunities to give Cameroon a victory in Ismailia that would have sent it through to the knockout rounds with a game to spare and avoided a stressful finish to the group stage. His shot just before halftime was saved by Ghana goalkeeper Richard Ofori, who leaped high to his right to keep the ball out.
Bassogog’s goal-bound effort in the 76th minute was blocked by the chest of defender Jonathan Mensah. Mensah felt the full force of the shot and slipped to his knees and took a moment to recover from the blow.
Ghana substitute Owusu Kwabena hit the crossbar with three minutes to go after pouncing on a Cameroon error. He bore down on goal and fired a shot past Ofori that ricocheted off the frame.
Ghana was hampered, though, by the early loss of influential winger Christian Atsu to injury. Atsu left the field within the first 15 minutes with a right leg injury he suffered taking a shot at goal.
Ghana has a squad dripping with talent but hasn’t given any indication that this could be the year when the West Africans end a 37-year wait for a title. Ghana was unimpressive in a 2-2 draw with Benin in its opening match.
Neither Benin nor Guinea-Bissau took advantage of the Cameroon-Ghana stalemate in the last match of the day, and neither could clinch its first victory at the African Cup. Benin is still winless after 11 games at the tournament since making its debut in 2004.
It did have the best of Saturday’s games, with striker Steve Mounie missing the clearest chance when he headed over the bar from a free-kick with the goal at his mercy deep in the second half.
Mounie slammed both hands against the crossbar in frustration, encapsulating a day that wasn’t a glowing advert for Africa’s top tournament.
Even the presence of a player called Pele wearing the No. 10 jersey didn’t help. Guinea-Bissau’s 27-year-old Portugal-born forward shares the name and shirt number of the greatest soccer player ever.
Group F is also wide open after there were no goals between Angola and Mauritania. That game was the first 0-0 of the tournament and apparently inspired a succession of them.
Angola’s Geraldo had a late goal ruled out for offside and tournament debutant Mauritania recovered from a 4-1 hammering by Mali in the opening round to hold the Angolans.
Mali leads that group by two points from Tunisia, but Angola and Mauritania are not out of contention for the knockout stage. Mauritania is a country of 4 million people in northwest Africa that sits almost entirely in the Sahara desert. It was one of the big surprises when it qualified for the tournament.
The top two teams from each of the six groups make the last 16 along with the four best third-placed teams.
Host Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria and Morocco already have qualified for the round of 16.