What we have witnessed in the last five days is the exact reason why there is simply no sport like football; the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations is truly alive and the tournament has just begun. There is a likelihood that we have would more surprises as the competition progresses. Bookmakers have been stunned – no one saw Benin taking out Morocco, South Africa eliminating the host and Tunisia sending Ghana home. We are down to the last eight nations, these teams and fans can start to dream.
Here is our preview of the quarter finals.
SENEGAL v BENIN – WED. 10 JULY 2019, 17.00HRS
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Senegal will play one of the tournament surprise package Benin at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo for a place in the semi-finals. Sadio Mane solitary goal was enough to send the Terranga Lions through while Benin fairytale continues with the Squirrels qualifying for the quarter finals for the first time. Michel Dussuyer’s men reached the knockout stage for the first time and have taken a step further by eliminating one of the tournament favorites – Morocco. They face another top opponent in Senegal but their hopes will stand firm to make further progress in the tournament. Senegal have tasted defeat in this tournament and would be mindful of giant-killing Benin who are yet to lose in the competition till date.
VERDICT – Senegal have never lost to Benin in four previous meetings, claiming three wins and one draw with the last meeting back in 2008. Terranga Lions have kept three cleans in four games in the competition so far and Kalidou Koulibaly has been excellent. The Napoli stalwart will have to keep Steve Mounie and Mickael Pote quiet as they target another victory. Sadio Mane is one of the leading scorers at the tournament and will lead the Senegalese attack. Is there any surprise lying in wait? Senegal’s quality should see them through.
NIGERIA v SOUTH AFRICA – WED. 10 JULY 2019, 20.00HRS
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The Super Eagles of Nigeria knocked out defending champions Cameroon which means there would be new winner at the Total African Cup of Nations. South Africa Bafana Bafana stunned a packed and expectant crowd of more than 70000 at the Cairo International Stadium by eliminating the host to set up an intriguing quarter final clash against old foes Nigeria. Thembinkosi Lorch’s 85th minute strike was the first goal Mohamed El Shenawy conceded and it was enough to send Egypt out. Nigeria won the thriller in Alexandria in a game with several twists and turns which saw the three-time champions emerge victorious. Alex Iwobi’s winner two minutes after Odion Ighalo put Nigeria level made the difference.
VERDICT – South Africa haven’t lit up the continent but their composed performance against Egypt showed the quality of Bafana Bafana. They covered more distance and had equal attempts on goal despite being overwhelmed. In 11 previous meetings, Nigeria has five wins to South Africa’s two. The Super Eagles have won the two meetings at AFCON, however, Bafana Bafana are undefeated in the last two meetings. This match will be decided on tactical discipline and efficiency in front of goal. Odion Ighalo and Percy Tau are the players to watch. Both teams should get on the score sheet at the Cairo International Stadium.
IVORY COAST v ALGERIA – THUR. 11 JULY 2019, 17.00HRS
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Ivory Cost won the West African duel in Suez against Mali to keep their unbeaten AFCON record against Mali intact. Algeria have kept their impressive start to the tournament on with a comprehensive three nil victory over Guinea in the round of 16. The Desert Foxes have scored nine goals in four matches and are yet to concede ahead of the quarter final clash against Les Éléphants. There is a breath of hope in Algeria football under Belmadi following recent disappointment and the fans are beginning to dream once again. For Ivory Coast, they cannot afford another slow start like they had against Mali; it might prove catastrophic for Ibrahim Kamara’s team against the deadly Fennecs. Djamel Belmadi forwards – Adam Ounas, Youcef Belaili and Riyad Mahrez have seven goals in between them.
VERDICT – This is eight AFCON meeting between these former champions; Ivory Coast have three wins while Algeria have two. The last was in a quarter final match in the 2015 edition, Ivory Coast won 3-1 in Malabo thanks to goals from Wilfried Bony and Gervinho while Hillal Soudani scored for Algeria. Ivory Coast are yet to hit the strides expected but they have been quite steady. Algeria have impressed so far and would adopt their attacking approach. Our prediction is over 2.5 goals in Suez.
MADAGASCAR v TUNISIA – THUR. 11 JULY 2019, 20.00HRS
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It has been a debut to remember for another surprise package – Madagascar who can book a place in the semis if they overcome Tunisia at the Al Salam stadium on Thursday evening. Both teams required penalty shootout to advance to the last eight. The Barea matched the Leopards on the pitch and could have won the game in regular time until Chancel Mbemba’s 90th minute header levelled for DRC. On the other hand, a 92nd minute own goal from Rami Bedoui stopped Tunisia from winning inside 90 minutes before substitute goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha grabbed the headlines and proved to be an accurate gamble for Alain Giresse by saving one of Ghana’s kicks. The French coach earned his stripes on the night using his substitutes well; Wahbi Khazri’s arrival on the scene improved the Carthage Eagles attacking prospect and led to the game opening goal. Can the fearless Barea clip another Eagles wings?
VERDICT – This is the first AFCON meeting between these countries. Former champions Tunisia might be favorites on paper for the game in Cairo but this tournament has offered surprises in unexpected places, nothing is given or guaranteed. We anticipate another intense battle between two sides that will give it all to make the last four. Everything is on the cards here; goals from both ends, extra time is anticipated and even penalties.
It is a wrap on our previews for the Quarter-final matches of the Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. A place in the last four is at stake; keep playing, keep winning…. Predict and win big by visiting our Sports shop Babaijebu.ng for mouthwatering offers in Africa’s biggest football showpiece.