What appeared to be a historic appearance got even better as Gambia's Scorpions drew against Mali -- one of the AFCON favorites. With four points after two matches, the Scorpions will need just one point in their final match against Tunisia on Thursday to book a place in the next round of 16 teams.
Mali opened the scored with a penalty from a VAR check, only for the same VAR to confirm a penalty for Gambia after 80 minutes.
Italy-based Gambian forward Musa Barrow converted the penalty to a goal to tie with Mali.
Barrow, who won man of the match against Mauritania, said he was honored to record his name among the stars of AFCON goals scorers.
"Everything I'm able to achieve is as result of team work. I'm proud to be part of this great team of players and am truly honored to score a goal today and win man of the match in our first game," he said after the game.
4 points pose from Ebriama Colley pic.twitter.com/DI1Hg1Eg27
Mali's coach Mohamed Magassouba, who regarded Gambia as a dormant team in his pre-match interviews, got frustrated with Gambia's defensive tactics and says now there is no underdog in African football.
He hailed his team's performance and said they should have won the game but admitted his Gambian opponents performed well by blocking all their chances.
Gambian players and fans celebrated the draw against Mali as they keep their hopes for an unforgettable first AFCON experience alive.
Coach Tom Saintfeit said he knew Mali was a good team, that's why he concentrated on defense.
"My team defended very well-- that was the game plan," said Saintfeit.
"We were not willing to have ball possession, but we wanted to punish in the counter attacks and we had two free kicks in the first half, with little bit of luck we would've led the match," he added.
He told Africa Calling podcast that Mali's penalty was not clear and said he would have to see it again, as he didn't think it was a penalty.
Scorpions captain Pa Modou Jagne who watched the game from the bench said the team is playing with zero pressure.
"They called us underdogs even during the qualifiers, and we accepted it and surprised them all after topping the group against Gabon," said Jagne.
"Here we are again as underdogs in the tournament-- all I will say is let them keep on underrating us and we will keep on surprising them because we are not here as tourists, we're here to compete," he said.
There was a massive celebration among the Gambian fans whose hopes of witnessing a great performance from the Scorpions have been revived.
Scorpion fans John and Alpha couldn't contain their excitement that their team is close to qualifying for the next round.
"I am very proud of this team and equally proud to be among Gambians who have witnessed the Scorpions make their first AFCON experience-- from what I saw I believe we will play the quarter final," said an optimistic Alpha.
Fellow fan John anticipates more wins.
"Knowing that we were close to making it to the next round is amazing!" he said.
"I'm very happy with how things are unfolding for us, and I look forward to a joyous tournament," he added.