The stage is set for a thrilling quarter-final round of the 2021 African Cup of Nations. Egypt snuck into the quarter-finals after defeating Ivory Coast 5-4 in a dramatic penalty shootout.
The Pharaoh’s substitute keeper, Mohamed Abou Gaba saved Eric Bailly spot-kick which made the difference as Mohamed Salah stepped up to take Egypt’s fifth penalty to send his team through to the last eight. Egypt will now battle fellow Arab nation Morocco for a place in the semi-finals.
Earlier, Morocco had to come from a goal down to extinguish the Flames of Malawi to reach the quarter-final. Morocco has enjoyed more success over their Arab neighbours, defeating the Pharaoh’s 14 times and losing 3 times since 1961. Both teams had settled for a draw on 12 occasions, making the Sunday encounter a very intriguing one.
Mohamed Salah will hope to inspire the Egyptian team to a famous win against a Moroccan team led by star wing-back, Achraf Hakimi.
Liverpool and Senegal star Sadio Mane could miss the quarter-final game against Equatorial Guinea after suffering a concussion in Senegal’s round of 16 match against Cape Verde.
Mane fired home from a set-piece after 62 minutes in a 2-0 win over the Western African nation but had been hurt earlier in a nasty clash of heads with Cape Verde’s goalkeeper, Vozinha. Mane’s potential absence may give the Nzalang Nacional a slim chance of causing an upset against one of the tournament favourites.
Both teams have met three times, with Senegal winning twice and Equatorial Guinea recording one victory. Sunday’s game may not be a walk in the park for the Lions of Teranga who will have to rely on their top players, Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly to ensure victory.
AFCON 2021 host and favourites, Cameroon will fancy their chances against debutant The Gambia. Cameroon made heavy work of beating 10-man Comoros Islands 2-1 on Monday to advance to the quarter-finals at the expense of a team who had everything stacked against them. Karl Toko Ekambi and tournament top scorer, Vincent Aboubakar scored the home team’s goals at the Olembe Stadium to eliminate the debutants.
Bologna’s striker, Musa Barrow scored a 71st-minute winner as Gambia continued their giant-killing spree at the AFCON’s to pull off an upset 1-0 win over Guinea on Monday to advance to the quarter-finals. Cameroon and Gambia have met on two occasions, with the indomitable Lions winning both times.
The Eagles of Carthage of Tunisia caused a major upset in the round of 16 when they defeated the Super Eagles of Nigeria 1:0 last Sunday. Al Arabi’s Youssef Msakni scored the decisive goal two minutes into the second half, while Alex Iwobi was sent off just seven minutes after being substituted on.
The Nigerian team could not muster a comeback against their Covid-19 stricken opponents. Burkina Faso defeated 10-man Gabon on penalties to reach the quarter-finals after a 1-1 draw in regulation time. Ismahila Ouedraogo who plays for Greek Super League 2 club PAOK B, scored the decisive penalty to give the Stallions a 7-6 win in the shoot-out.
Defeat in the opening match of the tournament against the host country, Cameroon, did not deter a relatively strong Burkina Faso side from ploughing on and will be confident of progressing to the semi-finals at the expense of Tunisia.
Tunisia and Burkina Faso have met 6 times, with the Stallions recording 3 victories against their Arab counterpart.