Madagascar’s fairytale continues, 2017 finalists Cameroon and Egypt have been knocked out early and Ghana’s drought continues following a heartbreaking loss. Here are the Winners and Losers from the Round of 16. Bet on AFCON here.
The Malagasy story in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt is incredible. Ranked among the six worst teams on the continent, this was their first-ever tournament. Many predicted they would get eliminated in the group stages but they defied the odds and spit on the face of logic when they defeated DR Congo in the last 16 to qualify for the quarters. An unbelievable dream. Now, another challenge awaits; a showdown with 2004 champions Tunisia. Can they do it?
South Africa’s 1996 AFCON triumph seems like a century ago. Since then, Bafana Bafana have failed to match that phenomenal achievement. This year, expectations were low and they’ve outperformed. Hell, they even eliminated favourites and hosts Egypt in the last 16. Just like upcoming opponents Nigeria, Bafana are one of the most scrutinised national teams on the continent but they’re proving a lot of people wrong. Can they repeat the 1996 success?
China-based Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo scored a brace against Cameroon to take his tally to three in the competition to go level with Senegal forward Sadio Mane. Ighalo received plenty of criticism when Nigeria were knocked out of last year’s World Cup but he has shown that he can drive the Super Eagles to the promised land.
Following a magical season with Liverpool which ended in a historic Champions League triumph in Madrid, Mohamed Salah failed to replicate the same in the tournament. Coupled with other drawbacks, Egypt were painfully knocked out of the tournament by an unfancied South African team on home soil. Many questioned the forward’s on-pitch commitment and fighting spirit. With just two goals in four matches in the tournament, Salah still has a lot to prove for his country.
Clarence Seedorf and Cameroon
Giants Cameroon failed to defend their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations title when they were emphatically eliminated by 2013 winners Nigeria. Given their squad and the glamour brought to the team by Clarence Seedorf, they did not live up to expectations. The possession-heavy style implemented by the Dutch was unsuccessful and definitely needs time. With the 2021 tournament in their backyard, they have a chance to right the wrongs.
Over 2.5 Goals bettors
Out of the eight Round of 16 matches, only three saw three or more goals scored. Over 2.5 Goals have been hard to come by in this tournament, probably because of solid defensive football or lack of quality in the final third. Either way, knockout football is always cagey. Will the quarters provide more entertainment and goals or will this pattern continue?