Once again AFCON has shown that trying to make predictions is a fools game. Egypt and Morocco were heavy favourites in their matches, but both have been sent packing. Defending champions Cameroon, the DRC, Guinea, Mali and Ghana are also going home. We now look forward to the quarter finals.
Quarter Final One, Wednesday 10/7/19 Senegal v Benin
Benin shocked everyone by beating Morocco. Surprisingly, the Squirrels have not won a game in 90 minutes at the tournament so far, yet find themselves in the quarter-finals. They now face Senegal, who many believe are the strongest team left standing.
As the Morocco game showed, Senegal will have to be at their attacking best to break down a stubborn and resilient Benin side. Senegal were reasonably comfortable in their last 16 win over plucky Uganda, another team who could’ve provided a potential upset. Senegal proved they will not underestimate smaller teams, so I would expect them to treat Benin with the same respect.
Senegal should win this one, however it will be far from straightforward. Benin will certainly put up a fight and if they can take it to penalties again then anything can happen.
Quarter Final Two, Wednesday 10/7/19 Nigeria v South Africa
I thought Nigeria and Cameroon’s last 16 tie would be a cagey and quite boring affair. Thankfully it was the complete opposite and proved to be the game of the round. Nigeria knocked out the defending champions 3-2 and will now face Bafana Bafana in the quarter finals. Ighalo was really impressive upfront and looks like he is in the mood to secure the golden boot.
South Africa caused the major surprise of the last 16. Hosts Egypt were seen as guaranteed winners against a Bafana side who had barely shown any signs of life. Stuart Baxter decided to start Thembinkosi Lorch, whose performance and goal proved vital in dumping out the Egyptians. Tau also showed why he is so highly rated during this game, while the goal itself was a great team move that highlighted the quality Bafana have.
Nigeria will be favourites, but in truth I think this could be a really close game. If South Africa play like they did against Egypt, and Nigeria like they did against Cameroon, we could be in for another thriller.
Quarter Final Three, Thursday 11/7/19 Ivory Coast v Algeria
On paper this tie certainly has enough quality to suggest it could be the best game of the round. However, while Algeria looked very convincing against Guinea, the same cannot be said of the Ivory Coast, who were in truth fortunate to beat a very good Mali side.
If the Elephants give the Desert Foxes the same amount of chances as they gave Mali in the round of 16, Mahrez and co could have a field day. Algeria are one of the top scoring teams at the tournament, and are many people’s second favourites behind Senegal to lift the title. Alongside Mahrez, former Arsenal midfielder Bennacer has been very impressive, dominating the midfield for Algeria and being named best player in the group stages. His battle with Kessie in the middle of the park will be key to who wins this game, especially as the two could be linking up at AC Milan next season.
On paper the Ivory Coast have enough talent going forward to worry Algeria. However, on the pitch this talent hasn’t quite gelled. Wilfred Zaha has scored in each of the last two games, after not starting the first two. He hasn’t been at his best, which can also be said of Pepe on the other wing. If the Elephants are going to have any chance against Algeria then their big name players will have to come to the party.
I fancy Algeria for this one, they were very impressive defensively and going forward against Guinea. The Ivory Coast were fortunate to beat Mali and I think they will struggle in this game.
Quarter Final Four, Thursday 11/7/19 Madagascar v Tunisia
Like Benin, Tunisia have not won a game in normal time at the tournament, but somehow find themselves in the quarter finals. Madagascar on the other hand are every neutrals favourite team, and their results have more than earned them the chance to play in the quarter finals.
Madagascar managed to scrape past the DRC on penalties, and although they took the lead twice during normal time failed to hang on. Going forward they are exciting to watch, but will have to show patience against a stubborn and organised Tunisian side. It would be great for the tournament for Madagascar to keep up their incredible run and make the semi-finals. Whatever happens, they have surpassed any expectations at their first AFCON and should be proud of what they have achieved so far.
Tunisia on the other hand are not an impressive attacking side, or even an exciting side to watch for that matter. Before Khazri came on against Ghana they barely attempted to attack, preferring to just defend for most of the game. Unsurprisingly, they are one of the lowest scoring teams left in the competition. Hopefully Khazri will play, otherwise we could be in for another turgid Tunisian performance here.
As a neutral, and a fan of football, I hope Madagascar win this one. Tunisia have not been great to watch, while Madagascar have been the most enjoyable team to watch so far. Hopefully Madagascar can get the first goal and force Tunisia to attack rather than just sit in like they did against Ghana.
Featured image | Tevarak Phanduang | Unsplash
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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