Hosts Cameroon and Mali kicked off the sixth edition of the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) on Saturday with identical 1-0 wins against Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso respectively.
The action got underway at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in the capital Yaounde after an entertaining opening ceremony which was attended by dignitaries among them Cameroon Prime Minister Joseph Ngute, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, CAF interim president Constant Omari and former CAF president Issa Hayatou.
Salomon Banga netted the winning goal for Cameroon in the 72nd minute in a match they dominated to send them top of Group A.
Defeat for Zimbabwe meant they extended their unenviable record of having never won any of their opening matches at the tournament.
The other match saw Mali edge Burkina Faso by a similar score thanks to a 70th minute header by defender Siaka Bagayoko. Mali is joint top of the group with Cameroon with three points apiece.
The four teams will be in action on January 20, when Cameroon takes on Mali while Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso lock horns.
The Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) is a biennial tournament which exclusively features players who are active in the domestic leagues in the continent.
The top two sides from each group will advance to the knockout phase of the tournament.
The tournament, which was initially set to be held in April 2020, was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is the largest football championships to be held in the continent since the outbreak of COVID-19 almost a year ago.