Sixteen nations will continue their quest to win the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon as the round of 16 fixtures heralds in the knockout stages.
Minnows have humbled perennial AFCON nations while some illustrious countries are still in the hunt for glory.
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Continental rivalries will also be renewed while previously unceremonious derbies will come to the fore, and Daily Trust Sports previews all fixtures.
Ivory Coast vs Egypt
This repeat of the Egypt 2006 AFCON final is arguably the fixture of the round. Ivory Coast’s all-star side was denied glory by the Pharaohs and the present crop has shown enough to potentially avenge Didier Drogba and co. The Elephants are playing attacking, entertaining football and in Nicolas Pepe, have a man that can score and also assist Sebastian Haller. Wilfred Zaha is also warming his way into the tournament and they should overcome a Mo’ Salah-led Egypt that is still finding its best football, scoring just two goals to Ivory Coast’s six. Algeria was eliminated by the Elephants, Egypt should be next.
Nigeria vs Tunisia
The Super Eagles of Nigeria have played the best football so far in Cameroon and should turn up the gears against a Tunisia that squeezed through as one of four best losers and will miss twelve players due to COVID-19. A variety of routes to goals by Austin Eguavoen’s side should steamroller the Carthage Eagles that thrive on individual performance and referee complaints. Nigeria’s defence should however be wary of Tunisian antics but there is enough in attack for Nigeria to be victorious in this battle of the Eagles.
Cameroon vs Comoros
The hosts have produced goals aplenty, seven scored being the highest by any country in the tournament and the Indomitable Lions should continue the trend in this fixture against the COVID-19-hit minnows that relied on a win over atrocious Ghana to reach this stage. Highest goal scorer, Vincent Aboubakar, and his partner, Karl Toko-Ekambi, should continue their rich vein of form in front of goal.
Morocco vs Malawi
The Atlas Lions stumbled against the Gambia in their last group game but have shown enough to ensure at least the quarter-finals. This is a well-drilled team and Sofiane Boufal should continue his form in attack while Achraf Hakimi grows into the tournament against a Malawi team that could only score against Zimbabwe. Although they held Senegal in their final AFCON group game, Morocco should be too strong for the Flames.
Senegal vs Cape Verde
Cape Verde could cause an upset against the Teranga Lions in this unheralded West African derby following gutsy, eye-catching displays in the Group phase. They narrowly lost to Burkina Faso, were impressive in victory over Ethiopia and pushed Cameroon to a draw. The tournament has seen minnows toppling favourites, a Senegal team that has scored only once so far- from the penalty spot- could be next in line. Sadio Mane and his compatriots, AFCON 2019 finalists, have not lived up to their potential and an unpredictable and explosive Cape Verde could pounce.
Burkina Faso vs Gabon
Another West African derby that should go to the final moments before a winner emerges. While Burkina Faso stood tall against Cameroon before eventually losing, Gabon showed resilience to stop both Ghana and Morocco. The industrious Jim Allevinah should receive more attention from Burkina Faso’s defence while Bertrand Traore should lead the Stallions. A potentially entertaining derby-to-watch is on the cards in this match.
Guinea vs Gambia
Gambia remains arguably the surprise team of the tournament so far, progressing in their first-ever AFCON appearance. The manner of qualification was more surprising, wins over Tunisia and Mauritania, and a draw against Mali. The Panthers should be on top form coming into this encounter but the Guinea team is an effective unit that knows how to get the job done. However, Guinea’s final day loss against eliminated Zimbabwe could be an indication of another upset.
Mali vs Equatorial Guinea
Mali is one of eight unbeaten nations left in AFCON; the Eagles achieved this thanks to a solid defence that has conceded only once and in Ibrahima Kone, have a striker on three goals, second only to Aboubakar. Equatorial Guinea however advanced by winning two of three matches, including the victory over Algeria that ended the AFCON defending champions’ 35-match unbeaten run. They also pushed Ivory Coast despite defeat and Mali could be the next big name the Thunders will strike out of Cameroon.