The group stages are over, with Zimbabwe, Burundi, Tanzania, Namibia and others on their way home, the rest of the teams will now start looking forward to the last 16. We preview the upcoming fixtures for you below.
Match 1 Friday 5/7/19 Morocco v Benin
The first of our last 16 games see’s Morocco take on Benin.
Out of all the so called favourites, Morocco have been the most consistent and the most impressive. Despite being in a tricky group, the Atlas Lions were excellent against the Ivory Coast, with Amrabats world class assist for the only goal. They deserved to beat South Africa and have yet to concede in this tournament. Hakimi has also impressed at right back. They will be a tough team to beat and should go further than the last 16. Herve Renard and his lucky white t-shirt could be looking at a third title.
Benin, like Morocco have not lost a game so far. However, they also haven’t won a game so far either. Drawing with Ghana and Cameroon is commendable, however their failure to beat Guinea-Bissau suggests some weakness going forward. If they want to have any chance against an inform Morocco team they will need to remain compact at the back and take the few chances that may come their way.
Even though Benin are unbeaten, Morocco have been very impressive and I would be very suprised if they don’t manage to win this game.
Match 2 Friday 5/7/18 Senegal v Uganda
The second match on Friday see’s the Cranes take on the pre-tournament favourites Senegal.
During the group stages, Uganda surprised many with their victory over the DRC, followed up with a draw against Zimbabwe and an impressive display in their final game despite losing to the hosts Egypt. Senegal will have to be wary of the threat Uganda pose on the counter-attack, with the pace and skill of players such as Okwi, Abdu and Miya going forward.
Senegal have been disappointing so far, despite victories over both Kenya and Tanzania. Despite the obvious quality and the belief by some, including myself, that this was Senegal’s year, they have hardly set the tournament alight. Perhaps the pressure of knock out football will spark Cisse’s men into life. They will certainly have to be careful against a dangerous Uganda side with nothing to lose.
I believe Senegal should have enough to beat Uganda, however I’m sure Uganda’s style of play and attacking players will have chances to cause an upset.
Match 3 Saturday 6/7/18 Nigeria v Cameroon
Saturday’s first match sees 2013 winners Nigeria take on defending champions Cameroon in arguably the biggest match of the last 16.
The Super Eagles looked impressive defensively in their first two group games, however a shock defeat to the surprise package Madagascar has tempered expectations. One would expect them to raise their game against Cameroon now that we are into the business end of the tournament. However, they will have to show more creativity going forward in order to progress further.
Cameroon, like Nigeria, have looked impressive at the back. However, they have failed to score against both Ghana and Benin, meaning they have not found the net since a 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau in the first round of matches. They have had chances in these games, yet have failed to take them. They will have to be more clinical against a quality side in Nigeria.
Although this is the biggest game of the round, I could also see it being the most cagey. Both have not shown much going forward that is exciting. This one could go all the way to penalties.
Match 4 Saturday 6/7/18 Egypt v South Africa
The late game Saturday see’s hosts Egypt come up against South Africa.
Three wins out of three during the group stages does flatter the hosts, who despite not conceding a goal have looked far from assured at the back. The DRC hit the crossbar twice, while Uganda had plenty of chances before Salah’s wonderful free kick put them ahead. Despite Salah’s two goals, it has been the other winger Trezeguet who has been their biggest threat going forward. If he continues to inspire them and Salah begins to really find his form then Egypt will go a long way. However, South Africa will know they are hardly as invincible as their results suggest.
Bafana Bafana have been very dissapointing so far. They struggled to break down Namibia and were lucky to qualify for the last 16 having lost to both the Ivory Coast and a second string Morocco side. They will need to show so much more going forward, and perhaps should start by swapping , who hasn’t really been a threat upfront, with the big target man . Veldwjik has given the team a more direct approach due to his height and physical presence.
Egypt may have shown some weaknesses, however I do not think South Africa have shown that they are capable of exploiting them. I expect Egypt to win this one.
Match 5 Sunday 7/7/18 Madagascar v DRC
Sundays football begins with Madagascar against the DRC
Madagascar have been the surprise package of the tournament so far, pipping Nigeria to top the group and playing some great football along the way. They have been one of the most enjoyable teams to watch so far and many a neutral will hope they can get even further. Carolus Andriamatsinoro has been in wonderful form for the team, and the Saudi based player could be crucial for them in the upcoming fixture.
Trying to end Madagascar’s fun will be the Leopards from the DRC. Despite pre-tournament expectations, the DRC were dissapointing in the group, only really turning up against Zimbabwe on the last matchday. However, they managed to win 4-1 thanks to a few gifts from the Zimbabwe keeper and have now made it to the last 16. On paper they would be favourites, and if they play close to their potential they should be able to win.
However, football isn’t played on paper. Madagascar have been good in every game, so the DRC will have to turn up otherwise they may well be turned over by the suprise side of AFCON.
Match 6 Sunday 7/7/19 Algeria v Guinea
The weekend finishes with Algeria up against Guinea.
Algeria were barely tested against Kenya, won one of the more dull games of the tournament against Senegal. They haven’t had to be at their best consistently, but their last game against a weak Tanzania side allowed them to rotate the squad, resulting in a comfortable 3-0 victory. Mahrez is still the star, but striker Baghdad Bounedjah has looked impressive so far off the back of a great domestic campaign in Qatar. Fans will be hoping the pressure of knock out football gets the best out of their talented side.
Hoping to stop Algeria will be Guinea, who finished third in their group behind Nigeria and Madagascar with four points. impressed in the first game but hasn’t found the net since, while the team has clearly missed having in the midfield. They do have some good players so should not be underestimated.
Despite this, I personally cannot see past Algeria. They have much more quality than Guinea who may again be without Keita.
Match 7 Monday 8/7/19 Mali v Ivory Coast
The penultimate fixture of the last 16 see’s Mali take on the Ivory Coast.
Mali have been very impressive so far. They comfortably made it through the group and have played some nice football in doing so. Even with their second string team they managed to see of Angola, and really put Mauritania to the sword, something which neither Angola nor Tunisia could do. Mali fans should be excited, as this team looks like it is playing with a togetherness that a lot of other teams don’t have.
The Ivory Coast found their form against Namibia, having finally decided to play Wilfred Zaha. He grabbed a goal, while Max-Alain Gradel put in a good performance. If they can get Zaha and Gradel firing, or even pre-tournament player to watch Pepe going they could cause teams some problems. They were solid against South Africa, but were outclassed by a very impressive Morocco side on match day two. Fans of the Elephants will be hoping to see a performance like their last game.
Ivory Coast have the big names and the history, but Mali have really impressed me. I think Mali will win this one, based on their performances so far and the confidence this will have given them.
Match 8 Monday 8/7/19 Ghana v Tunisia
Our final matchday see’s West Africa’s Ghana take on North Africa’s Tunisia.
Ghana struggled in their opening two matches, drawing with Benin and Cameroon. The draw with Benin was slightly unlucky with John Boye receiving a bizzare red card. They managed to see off Guinea-Bissau, and in Jordan Ayew they appear to have a goalscorer for this tournament. Expectations among Ghana fans are high, and they will expect them to make it through to the quarter-finals.
Tunisia have been dissapointing. They have drawn all their games, including against minnows Mauritania. Yes they haven’t lost and are unbeaten, but after making it to last years World Cup expectations are higher. They have a tough game against Ghana, and realistically do not seem to have the form or the confidence to make it through.
I would expect Ghana to win this. It will be a tight game as Tunisia are organised defensively, but lack a major threat going forward. However, Ghana are prone to dissapoint, so I would not be too suprised if Tunisia end up grinding out a 1-0 win in this one.
Featured image | Cairo stadium | wikimedia commons
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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