As the quarter finals of the AFCON 2019 begins starts today, the competition gradually nears its climax. Favourites, and outsiders are beginning to emerge and matches will become more tougher and fiercer. As the remaining eight teams vie for a place in the semi-finals, here is a look at their profiles as well as what they bring to this round.
Nickname: Les Ecureuils
Head Coach: Michel Dussuyer
Star Player(s): Stéphane Sessègnon, Steve Mounie
Benin are making their fourth overall appearance, and first in 9 years at this year’s AFCON. Les Ecureuils drew all three of their group stage matches and narrowly managed to make it through to the round of 16 of the competition with just three points. The team went into the knock out stages and caused an upset by defeating one of the competition favourites, Morocco, 1 – 4 on penalties. They face another star packed favourites in the shape of Senegal in the quarter finals. Will they cause another upset?
Head Coach: Ibrahim Kamara
Star Player(s): Wilfred Zaha, Nicolas Pépé, Frank Kessie
Competition favourites Côte d’Ivoire have won the title twice in 1992 & 2015, from their 22 previous appearances. The competition veterans came into the competition with a star studded line up that includes Wilfred Zaha and Frank Kessie, however with narrow one-nil wins and a 4 -1 defeat of Namibia, one could say that the Elephants have not truly lived up to expectations. They face Algeria, in the last eight in what promises to be an intriguing match, and the players will be hoping to prove that they are more than just hype.
Head Coach: Nicolas Dupuis (France)
Star Player(s): Dimitry Caloin, Lalaïna Nomenjanahary
Madagascar were one of the first teams to qualify for 2019 AFCON, reaching the finals on 16th October 2018 after 10 points from their opening four games . They have gone on to become one of the surprise packages of the competition, finishing first in their group, and then defeating DR Congo 4-2 on penalties in the knockout stage to advance to the quarter finals. Could this be another underdog story?…only time will tell.
Nickname: Super Eagles
Head Coach: Gernot Rohr (Germany)
Star Player(s): Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi, Ahmed Musa
Having missed out on the last two editions of the competition, three-time champions, the super Eagles of Nigeria now under Franco-German trainer Gernot Rohr, will be hoping to re-establish themselves amongst the elites of African football. Having finished second in the group stage, Nigeria defeated defending champions Cameroon in the knockout stage. They now have to overcome the hurdle of long-time rivals, South Africa in the quarter finals. The game has already become the stand-out fixture of the round, and promises to be explosive.
Nickname: Bafana Bafana
Head Coach: Stuart Baxter (England)
Star Player(s): Percy Tau, Lebo Mothiba
South Africa were the last team to book their ticket to Egypt, after a 2-1 away win over Libya. Bafana Bafana came into AFCON 2019, hoping to do better than their previous appearances where they have failed to get out of the group stage in four of their last five participations. So far in the competition, all their matches have ended in one-nil, with one of those, coming in a defeat to Côte d’Ivoire. They will need to do better if they are to get past Nigeria in the quarter finals.
Nickname: Teranga Lions
Head Coach: Aliou Cisse
Star Player(s): Sadio Mane, Keita Balde, Kalidou Koulibaly
Senegal is another competition favourite that boasts an impressive list of players. Players include Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gueye, among others. Senegal picked up 16 points in the 2019 AFCON qualifying campaign, more points than any other team in the qualifiers, and have been impressive so far in the competition. They remain one of the favourites going into the next round of games, and Benin will have a tall mountain to climb if they are to tame the Teranga Lions
Nickname: Carthage Eagles
Head Coach: Alain Giresse (France)
Star Player(s): Whabi Khazri, Anice Badri
Tunisia have reached the quarter-final stage but no further in five of the last seven editions of the AFCON, including each of the last two, and this year, their performances haven’t been impressive. The North Africans qualified from the group stage without a win, recording three draws. They advanced past the first round of the knockout stages by narrowly defeating Ghana 5-4 on penalties. The Carthage Eagles will have to improve their game when they come up against in-form competition surprises Madagascar.
Nickname: Les Fennecs
Head Coach: Djamel Belmadi
Prior to AFCON 2019, Algeria have been eliminated at the group stage in two of their last three appearances in the competition, winning just two of their 10 matches across the three tournaments. However, they have been the most impressive team and stand out performers in this year’s AFCON. The North Africans have recorded four victories so far, scoring 9 times and conceding none. With stars like Riyad Mahrez, Sofiane Feghouli, Yacine Brahimi, Les Fennecs go into the quarter finals as overwhelming favourites to win the competition, and Côte d’Ivoire, their opponent in the quarter finals have an immense task ahead of them.
Last Four Predictions
Take that to the bank!!!