The 2024 Africa Cup of Nations is entering its quarter-final stage this week.
After the group stage, the top two teams and the four best third-placed teams advanced to the round of 16, which saw major upsets and some unusual records broken.
So, here are some of the major highlights from the Round of 16:
First Time Without A North African Country In Afcon Quarter Finals Since 2013
This year’s competition has seen us witness unexpected surprises and unforgettable moments, making fans around the continent and beyond even more enthusiastic about what’s to come. A major surprise this year is that not one North African team will be at the Quarter Finals of the competition. This has not happened since 2013. What a tournament you can say.
Nigeria Continue RO16 Record Against Rivals Cameroun
Super Eagles of Nigeria had previously lost three AFCON finals to Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, but the last time both teams met in the round of 16, the Super Eagles triumphed 3-2 in 2019 thanks to a brace from Odion Ighalo and Alex Iwobi sealing the win.
The RO16 result was the same when the two sides met, a brace by Ademola Lookman made sure that Nigeria were part of the last eight of this year’s competition.
Redemption For The Elephants As The Host Nation Knocked Out Defending Champions, The Teranga Lion of Senegal.
Host country, Cote D’ivoire were lucky to be a part of the best performing third placed teams from the group stage, which saw them seeded against reigning Afcon Champions, Senegal.
After a disappointing 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea in the group stage, the Ivorian coach was sacked and Emerse Fae took over as interim coach. Emerse Fae took training for the first days of his tenure without knowing if Les Elephants were still in the tournament.
With favorable results from other fixtures, the host nations were able to take one of the four (4) best loser spot.
Despite Habib Diallo scoring early for Senegal, Ivory Coast improved, and Senegal’s solid defense resisted their attacks. Senegal had opportunities in the second half, including a denied penalty claims and missed shots. However, a late penalty by Franck Kessie levelled the game.
In the penalty shootout, only Moussa Niakhate from Senegal missed, leading to the exit of the defending champions who prevail on penalties two years ago.
Competition’s Highest Goalscorer Penalty Miss Sends His Team Crashing Out
Emilio Nsue of Equitorial Guinea, who leads the 2023 AFCON scoring charts with five goals, missed a penalty for Equatorial Guinea in the second half against Guinea.
The Syli National achieved a historic milestone by winning their first-ever knockout tie in the Cup of Nations, having been runners-up in 1976. The Equatorial Guinea players were disheartened at the end, contrasting with Guinea’s jubilant celebration, supported by a lively crowd of 36,340, including Abidjan’s sizable Guinean community.
No Back To Back Afcon Finals Appearance For Mo Salah
7-time Afcon winners, were supposed to reach the quarterfinals against DR Congo, even though they were missing their star player, Mohamed Salah. The initial plan was for Salah to return if Egypt made it to the final after recovering from a hamstring injury. However, DR Congo performed just as strongly and eliminated Egypt in a penalty shootout. This was a major letdown for Egypt, considering their past success in reaching the final in the last tournament, and the expectations were high for them to perform well again.
Between February 2nd and 3rd, the remaining teams will compete to decide the final four contenders who will advance to the semi-finals, bringing them one step closer to potentially winning the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Find out the complete quarter-final schedule below:
Friday 2 February
Nigeria v Angola – Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium, Abidjan, 5pm
DR Congo v Guinea – Alassane Ouattara Stadium, Abidjan, 8pm
Saturday 3 February
Mali vs Côte d’Ivoire – Stade de la Paix, Bouake, 5pm
Cape Verde vs South Africa – Charles Konan Banny Stadium, Yamoussoukro, 8pm
All times are local time (UTC/GMT)
Keep an eye out for more updates on the 2024 AFCON.