Ahead of the Second Round matches of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), Voplink Media’s Augustine Akhilomen x-rays the likely teams that would scale through to the Quarterfinal Stage.
Morocco vs Benin
On paper, it would have been easy to tip the Atlas Lion of Morocco to qualify to the quarter-final of the Africa Cup of Nations ahead of the Squirrels of Benin. However, since football is not mathematics, the team with the determination and hunger would definitely carry the day.
There is no doubt that Morocco was impressive in the group stages with a 100% winning record, beating Ivory Coast, South Africa, and Namibia to top group D, compared to a Benin side that qualified as the third best teams in group F behind Ghana and Cameroon.
In terms of style of play, the Moroccans have been fluid and pacy thanks to Hakim Ziyech, Mehdi Bourabia, and Mbark Boussoufa’s well-tailored passes between the heart of the midfield and the attack. And this is one area that would give the Benin side cause for concern even though they would be hoping to choke the midfield and pray for mother-luck to cause one of the biggest upset in the competition.
Prediction: Morocco to qualify
Uganda vs Senegal
This is expected to be a physical game between Senegal and Uganda in the round of 16. Despite struggling against Algeria in the second match in group C, where the team lost 1-0, the Teranga Lions of Senegal still finished second thanks to their influential star, Sadio Mane in the attack.
In the other hand, the Cranes of Uganda are definitely not pushovers going by their strong finish in group A that had host nation, Egypt, Zimbabwe and DR Congo. The team finished second with four points with the only defeat against the Pharaohs of Egypt.
Although Senegal seem to have the chance of qualifying to the next round based on the team’s attacking strength which include Mane, Ismaïla Sarr and M’Baye Niang, however, a loss of concentration could give the Cranes the outside chance of pulling an upset.
Prediction: Senegal to qualify
Nigeria vs Cameroon
One of the mouth-watering round of 16 clashes in the Africa Cup of Nations which pit the Super Eagles of Nigeria against their greatest rival, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, who are the defending champions. The last time both teams met was during the qualifier of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where Nigeria thrashed Cameroon 4-0 in Port Harcourt before playing out a 1-1 draw in Yaounde.
Interestingly, Cameroon have defeated Nigeria three times in the final to lift the Africa Cup of Nations and Saturday’s encounter would definitely be a blockbuster considering the caliber of players on parade for both teams.
The two teams finished second in their respective groups but Super Eagles shocking loss against a Madagascar side that is ranked 108 in the latest FIFA rankings seems to have questioned the team readiness for the round of 16 clash against a Cameroonian side that neither lost a game nor conceded any goal.
The game will be won between the midfield and the attack from either side of the team and if chances are not converted as quickly as possible then, penalties could decide the winner.
Prediction: Nigeria to qualify
Egypt vs South Africa
Without mincing words, the Pharaohs of Egypt are expected to whip the Bafana Bafana of South Africa in the round of 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations. Egypt still maintains a 100% winning record thanks to their star man, Mohammed Salah, Trézéguet and Marwan Mohsen as the team finished top of group A.
On the other hand, South Africa may well be kissing the competition goodbye on Saturday, having managed to qualify from group D as one of the four third best placed teams and from a group that consists Ivory Coast, Morocco and Namibia.
But they have failed to show their flair and don’t look any to possess any firepower to withstand the Pharaohs and their vociferous home supporters that will definitely cheer the team to victory except the unimaginable happens.
Prediction: Egypt to qualify
Madagascar vs DR Congo
It may be difficult to ever believe that Madagascar are debutants at the Africa Cup of Nations going by their impressive performance, most especially against the star-studded Super Eagles of Nigeria a team they defeated 2-0 in their final Group B clash. Blessed with pace, strength and quick play, the Bareas may continue their fairy tale run against a DR Congo side that managed to qualify as one of the best teams in group A that consist of Egypt, Zimbabwe, and Uganda.
Prediction: Madagascar to qualify
Algeria vs Guinea
A contest that may be decided on penalties going by their performance in the group stages of the bi-annual competition. The Desert Warriors of Algeria is a decent team with quick counter play thanks to Manchester City star, Riyad Mahrez and Sofiane Feghouli but they face a Guinean side that is compact without their utility star man, Naby Keïta.
This encounter may be too close to call however, the better team will definitely carry the day.
Prediction: Algeria to qualify
Mali vs Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast have the potentials to make it through the round of 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations with players such as Wilfred Bony, Wilfried Zaha and Max Gradel in the frontline of the attack. Mali also possess the quality even though they are blessed with the mixture of young and experience, it is however, expected that the encounter would be decided with a slime margin or penalties after 90 minutes.
Prediction: Ivory Coast to qualify
Ghana vs Tunisia
The Black Stars of Ghana and the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia failed to impress in the group stages of the bi-annual tournament, however, the round of 16 may offer both teams the chance to express their hunger for victory. Ghana finished as winners of Group F on five points after winning their last fixture 2-0 against Guinea Bissau while Tunisia could only managed three points after drawing all three matches.
Black Stars would be depending on Andre Ayew to shoulder the team’s goal scoring responsibility while Tunisia will be hoping that dependable attacking midfielder, Wahbi Khazri will raise the standard of his game to push the team to the quarter-final.
Prediction: Ghana to qualify