The African Cup of Nations is now at the quarterfinal stage, with the first games being played over the next couple of days. Eight teams are remaining in the tournament from the 24 that started it and one of the biggest surprises has been the fact that host nation and pre-tournament favourites Egypt, were eliminated in the last round by a superb display from South Africa.
Along with the likes of Benin and Madagascar, South Africa provided us with one of the big upsets in the Round of 16, but there are still a number of very talented sides remaining in the competition and each will have their own designs on making the trophy their own. What lies in store are four exciting quarterfinals, each very different and from then on the semifinals and final.
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Let’s take a look now at how the Round of 16 finished.
AFCON Round of 16 Results
- Morocco 1-1 Benin (Benin win 4-1 on penalties after extra time)
- Uganda 0-1 Senegal
- Nigeria 3-2 Cameroon
- Egypt 0-1 South Africa
- Madagascar 2-2 DR.Congo (Madagascar win 4-2 on penalties, after extra time)
- Algeria 3-0 Guinea
- Mali 0-1 Ivory Coast
- Ghana 1-1 Tunisia (Tunisia win 5-4 on penalties, after extra time)
The best game of this round came between Nigeria and Cameroon, two teams who have long carried the torch for African football on the world stage. Nigeria went 1-0 up in this game before Cameroon struck twice in three minutes just before half time to take a 2-1 lead into the interval. Odion Ighalo netted for Nigeria to equalise and then three minutes later Arsenal winger Alex Iwobi snatched the winner in what was a dramatic and entertaining game.
Other Premier League stars on target in this round included Algeria and Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez who netted a sublime second goal for Algeria against Guinea, Wilf Zaha who netted the winner for the Ivory Coast against Mali and Sadio Mane, who did likewise in Senegal’s 1-0 win over Uganda.
It wasn’t so sweet for ex-Everton man Yannick Bolasie however as it was his missed penalty that handed Madagascar a 4-2 win on penalties over the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Those results meant that we were now left with the following quarterfinals.
AFCON Quarterfinals Fixtures and Tips
Senegal v Benin
It is strange to think that Benin have reached this far in the tournament without actually winning a game inside 90 minutes, the small nation have drawn their three group games then beat Morocco on penalties to get this far. However I fear their run may well come to an end here against a Senegalese side that have made heavy weather of reaching this stage. They have been very poor in front of goal missing a host of chances, including missing two penalties, which would have made their progress much easier. However, they are strong defensively and in Koulibaly and Mane, they have two real game-changers to call upon. I think this should be a comfortable win for Senegal. The winners of this tie will take on either Tunisia or Madagascar in the semifinal.
Nigeria v South Africa
After a fine performance against Cameroon to clinch a quarterfinal spot, Nigeria may have thought hosts Egypt lay in wait, but South Africa’s superb tactical display against the hosts saw them progress thanks to a late goal from Lorch sealing the win. In truth, it was by far the best performance by South Africa in the tournament as they had been very lethargic in the group stage. That game plan basically involved stopping Mo Salah by double and triple teaming him but I think with more attacking talent South Africa won’t be able to do that against this Nigeria side and as such, I fancy the Nigerians to earn the victory and a place in the semifinal against either Algeria or the Ivory Coast.
Algeria v Ivory Coast
Both these teams have the quality to win this tournament but of the two, it is Algeria that have shown the more consistent form. They won all three of their group games, scoring six goals and without conceding and then rattled in three more to despatch Guinea in clinical fashion in the last round. In Riyad Mahrez, they also have a player who can make the difference in even the tightest of games. The Ivory Coast have not been quite so impressive but they also have their stars, notably Wilf Zaha and Frank Kessie. If Zaha can get at this Algeria defence he could have some joy and I do feel this back line has not been tested much so far in this tournament. I think this one will be close and I can see a draw at 90 minutes with perhaps Algeria sneaking the win in extra time.
Tunisia v Madagascar
Both these teams progressed to the quarterfinal via penalties so both will be confident that if this game goes the full distance, they will be successful. Tunisia look very much like the team we saw in the World Cup, defensively solid but perhaps a bit limited in attack and midfield, especially with Khazri nursing an injury. Madagascar have been the real surprise of the tournament and have produced some outstanding performances. However, I do feel they will struggle to create too much against this Tunisia side and as such, I am backing Tunisia to snatch the win here probably by a single goal.