By Greg Stewart
AFCON 22 has served up some gems as well as quite a few surprises, with defending champions Algeria departing in the group stage and the top group stage team, Nigeria, surprisingly departing in the first knock-out round where they lost 0-1 to Tunisia, who only ranked 3rd in their Group stage.
The big talk this week, as the round of 16 played out, was, who deserved to be in the semi’s & finals and who would be the last two teams standing?
The tournament has not delivered a high goal count, and defensive play has played a big role in getting teams through the round of 16, with three of the eight matches being decided by penalties. But will defence save teams as we head towards the semi’s and finals? My viewpoint on this is that the teams who find their striking strides this weekend will have the greater chance of making the semi’s and finals than those who only rely on defensive play.
Egypt saw off a strong challenge from Ivory Coast in a 0-0 draw that was decided by penalties, with Mo Salah delivering the final blow to the Ivorian’s title hopes. Salah who tops the goals-scored rankings in the Premier League has come under severe criticism for his lack of goal scoring in the tournament so far and money says we will see him finally hitting the net in the Quarters.
Cameroon on the other hand have certainly earned respect with their attacking play and goal scoring ability so far. They showed they had staying power in the last round, when goals from Karl Toko Ekambi and Vincent Aboubakar saw them through.
They will face Gambia, who continued to make history after they advanced to the AFCON quarter-finals with a 1-0 win over Guinea. Musa Barrow was the hero again for his side as his 71st-minute goal got them through to the Semi’s.
Tunisia, who beat Tournament favourites Nigeria, will face Burkina Faso in the Quarters. Tunisian captain Youssef Msakni who scored the lone goal of the clash, will be hoping for more of the same on Saturday with all to play for. The 31-year-old striker from Al Arabi will be hoping to avenge their 2-0 loss they sustained at the same stage of the 2017 AFCON tournament.
A sensational free-kick from Achraf Hakimi, ensured Morocco moves on into the last eight with a 2-1 win over Malawi and they will face their North African rivals Egypt this Sunday. Striker Wahbi Khazri, who has scored 2 goals in the tournament will be aiming to upset Mo Salah’s Pharaohs with some of his own goal scoring talent and it should be an interesting contest to watch
Senegal scraped past nine-man Cape Verde with a 2-0 win to book their place in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals, with goal scorer, Sadio Mane, taken off with a suspected concussion. There is no confirmation yet if he will be fit to play in the Quarters. Senegal faces Equatorial Guinea in their last eight clash
Soccer betting predictions & betting market odds:
Goal Scorers in The Quarter finals:
Outright Tournament win: Cameroon at 4:1 on Sunbet