AFCON2019: The weight of the last eight

The ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) has reached the quarter-finals with the tournament showcasing the best of pieces some exciting, dramatic and, in some cases, intriguing with the end result bringing a surprising last 8 in Egypt.

Against all odds, the hosts, Egypt are gone after being knocked out by South Africa but the likes of Senegal, Algeria, the Ivory Coast and debutants Madagascar remain.

Two games are lined and expected to take place, and here is a snitch pitch of what to expect in the 20th day of the competitions, the richest in Africa.

Sadio Mane-led Senegal who beat Uganda in the last 16 by a lone goal, are in action in the first quarter-final tie, against a disciplined Benin, who sent home Arabs, Morocco on penalties to go further than they have ever gone in the competition to date.

Three-time winners and defeaters of trophy defenders, Cameroon in the first knock-out round Nigeria take on South Africa, who surprisingly eliminated the hosts Egypt on Saturday.

Senegal vs Benin

Senegal’s and Liverpool undoubted star is forward Sadio Mane, who recently said he would give up this season’s Champions League win with Liverpool if it meant Senegal could win their first Africa Cup of Nations.

Mane, one of four players to score three goals in this Afcon, despite missing the opening game through suspension, he has relieved himself off penalty-taking duties after missing two kicks in successive games.

Nigeria Vs South Africa

With three goals in four games so far, striker Odion Ighalo is the man to watch for Nigeria, he leads his team against the trophy defenders scoring a brace and giving an assist to Alex Iwobi who scored the winning goal to take them to the quarters.

The former Watford striker, who currently plays for Chinese club Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, enjoyed arguably his finest moment in a Super Eagles shirt on Saturday and will be among the en to watch against the resilient South Africans.

Senegal has never won the Africa Cup of Nations, but they are banking it on Mane to help them win the trophy especially with favourites and hosts Egypt having already been eliminated.

Standing in their way are first-time quarter-finalists Benin, who have drawn all four games at the tournament, including their last-16 penalty shootout win over Morocco.

“People see Benin as a surprise package, no. We have been observing them since the group stage. They have a compact team and play very well,” Senegal’s Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly told journalists.

South Africa are unlikely to have won over many fans in Egypt after their victory over the hosts in the last 16 a result that saw coach Javier Aguirre swiftly sacked by the seven-times winners.

Despite this, it does leave many wondering how far the 1996 champions can go in the tournament after they stumbled into the knockout rounds courtesy of a group stage that saw them score just once and claim one win.

The quarter-finals see them face a familiar foe in Nigeria, who they met in qualification for the tournament, with South Africa claiming a 2-0 win in Uyo before a 1-1 draw in Johannesburg.

6 July 2019: Thembinkosi Lorch during Bafana Bafana’s game against Egypt at Cairo International Stadium. The 1-0 win over the hosts saw South Africa reach the quarterfinals of Afcon 2019. (Photograph by Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Nigeria, who came through Group B in Egypt in second place, having won two of their three games, also won a semi-final tie between the two at the 2000 Afcon the last time South Africa made it beyond the last eight.

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