Following the completion of the Group Stages, the fixtures for the round of 16 at the ongoing Total Africa Cup of Nations are now set. Soccernet.ng’s Augustine Akhilomen x-rays the chances of the 16 teams that would qualify to the quarter-final of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Morocco vs Benin
On paper, The Atlas Lions will be the favourites going into the encounter against the Squirrels. 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. In contrast, Benin qualified as one of the third-best teams.
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.
Prediction: Morocco to qualify
Uganda vs Senegal
This matchup between the Cranes and the Teranga Lions is expected to be physical. 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.
Meanwhile, 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 coming against the Pharaohs of Egypt.
Although Senegal appear to have the edge based on the team’s attacking strength which include Mane, Ismaïla Sarr and M’Baye Niang, 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 pit the Super Eagles of Nigeria against their greatest rival, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. 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. Saturday’s encounter would definitely be another blockbuster considering the calibre of players on parade for both teams.
The two teams finished second in their respective groups after Super Eagles shock loss to a Madagascar side that is ranked 108 in the latest FIFA rankings. That loss drew criticism from many quarters, with many questioning Rohr and team’s abilities going into the knock out stages.
Both teams have failed to really inspire judging from their performances so far, but Nigeria’s attacking options make them the slight favourites.
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.
Having managed to qualify from group D as one of the 3rd best teams in a group that consists of Ivory Coast, Morocco and Namibia, it’ll be a huge shock if they earn a victory against the seven-time AFCON champions.
The Bafana Bafana don’t seem to have the firepowers 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 believe that Madagascar are just appearing at the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time going by their impressive performance, most especially against the star-studded Super Eagles of Nigeria who they defeated 2-0 in their final group B clash. Blessed with pace, strength and quick play, the Barea may continue their fairy tale against a DR Congo side that only managed to qualify as one of the third best teams in group A that had 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 is too close to call but Algeria’s superior talent gives them the edge.
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 leading their frontline. Mali also possess the quality as they are blessed with a mixture of young and experienced players. The encounter will likely be decided with a slim 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 offers both teams the chance to express their hunger for victory. Ghana finished group F on five points after winning their last fixture 2-0 against Guinea Bissau while Tunisia could only manage three points after drawing all three matches.
Black Stars would be depending on Andre Ayew to shoulder the team 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. It’s to separate the two sides, so a penalty shoot-out will likely decide the outcome.
Prediction: Ghana to qualify