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Predicting the quarter finals: Who will reach the AFCON last 4?

Senegal defeated Uganda to reach the quarter finals(PHOTOS/Courtesy)

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations quarter finals will be played on Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th, July 2019.

Eight round of 16 winners will square off for a place in the last four.

The 2019 edition in Egypt has already treated us to a few shocks and several pre-tournament favourites have already been eliminated including host Egypt, Morocc9 and defending champions Cameroon.

PML Daily Sports editor, Shaban Lubega predicts who will make it to the semi finals.

-Senegal vs Benin
30 June Air Defence Stadium, Cairo
Wednesday, 10-07-2019

Senegal have so far lived up to the hype and are the odds on favourites to walk away with the 2019 AFCON title.

After two victories and one loss at the group stages, the Lions of Teranga defeated Uganda 1-0 in the round of 16 to book a quarter final spot.

In the last 16 against Uganda, Senegal produced a professional performance and despite the fact that they did not dominate throughout, they never looked like slipping up.

Star player Sadio Mane looks to finally be hitting top gear as he has scored three goals already and will be looking to improve on his tally.

However, he missed his second penalty of the competition and it remains to be seen whether Aliou Cisse will maintain him as the primary penalty-taker.

Senegal possess a host of stars including Ismaila Sarr, Balde Keita, M’baye Niang and Idrissa Gana Gueye who are very much capable of stepping up incase Mane plays a ‘missing in action’ role.

For Senegal’s opponents-Benin, they have so far gone past where they would have realistically wanted.

The Squirrels who are taking part in only their fourth AFCON tournament produced a spirited display on Friday as they eliminated star-studded Morocco.

No one expected them to be here but they should not be taken lightly either as they are here solely because of themselves.

Drawn in a group that featured the likes of Ghana and Cameroon, not so many gave Benin a chance of reaching the knockout stages and despite the fact that they yet to win a game in 90 minutes, they have not lost either.

Benin are yet to win a game in 90 minutes.

If they are to produce another shock and eliminate Senegal, Benin’s goalkeeper Surtanin Allagbe who saved a last minute Hakim Ziyech penalty in the last round, will be expected to produce similar heroics. The other players who will need to be at their best include captain Stephen Sessegnon and Michael Poku.

Last meeting: Benin 1-2 Senegal (16-01-2008)

Prediction: Senegal 1-0 Benin

-Nigeria vs South Africa
Cairo International Stadium, Cairo
Wednesday, 10-07-2019

This is arguably the clash of the quarter finals as two African football heavyweights clash on Wednesday.

Nigeria must be in high spirits after coming from behind to defeat 2017 champions Cameroon in the quarter finals.

It was a game of twists and turns as the Super Eagles led early but found themselves trailing 1-2 at the break. They then scored two unanswered second half goals so as to storm the last 8.

Nigeria came from behind to eliminate Cameroon.

The game against the Indomitable Lions is the biggest task that Nigeria has had to negotiate so far, after winning two and losing the other of their three group games.

However, the 0-2 loss to Madagascar in their last group B game was not a game to that saw Nigeria over powered as they rested several of their key players due to the fact that they had already sealed a round of 16 spot.

Currently, Nigeria are ranked as one of the favourites to win this years title. They have in the past won it three times, in 1982, 1994 and 2013.

Their key players in the quarter finals will have to be Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi and Ahmed Musa.

Nigeria’s opposition on Wednesday comes in form of South Africa.

The Bafana Bafana are responsible for eliminating hosts Egypt in the last round, requiring a Thembinkosi Lorch 85 minute goal to get the job done.

South Africa defeated Egypt 1-0 in the round og 16.

South Africa were lucky to reach the last 16 after losing two of their three group games and qualifying as the fourth best third placed team.

However, they produced a magnificent performance against Egypt, continuously taking the game to the Pharaohs and were worthy winners in the end.

Having won their first and only AFCON title 23 years ago, Stuart Baxter’s side must be hungry for a second but will require Lorch, Percy Tau and Lebo Mothiba to be sharp so as to go past the Super Eagles.

Last meeting: South Africa 1-1 Nigeria (17-11-2018)

Prediction: Nigeria 1-1 South Africa (Nigeria wins on penalties)

-Ivory Coast vs Algeria
Suez Stadium, Suez
Thursday, 11-07-2019

Another clash to look forward to will be between Ivory Coast and Algeria as two of the best footballing nations on the continent do battle.

It has so far been a disappointing tournament for Ivory Coast despite reaching the last 8.

The Elephants were lucky as they defeated Mali 1-0 in the last round with Wilfred Zaha’s second half goal enough to see them win the contest.

Zaha (9) scores the winner against Mali on Monday.

The game was dominated by Mali but the Elephants were lucky not to concede as custodian Sylivia Gbohouo was at his best.

This was a reflection of how the Elephants struggled en route to finishing second in their group despite winning two of the three games.

Their confidence going into the game will come in form of Zaha as the forward has picked up form at the right time, scoring two goals in his last two games. Ivory Coast also have Jonathan Kodjia, Nicholas Pepe and Serge Aurier as the other players who can help them overcome Algeria.

For Algeria, they continue to impress. After winning all their group games, the Atlas Lions defeated Guinea 3-0 in the last round to maintain their winning streak.

Currently, they are the only side yet to concede a goal and their tally of nine scored is the most by any side at the finals.

Algeria are yet to concede a goal at AFCON 2019.

The victory over Guinea highlighted how formidable Algeria are as they dominated the game from start to finish.

Riyad Mahrez, Youcef Belaili and Adam Ounas scored the goals for Algeria in the last round and will be the ones to watch once again.

Last meeting: Ivory Coast 3-1 Algeria (01-02-2015)

Prediction: Ivory Coast 1-1 Algeria (Algeria win in extra time)

-Madagascar vs Tunisia
Al Salaam Stadium, Cairo
Thursday, 11-07-2019

Tunisia are currently struggling in the tournament as they have so far failed to win any of their games in 90 minutes.

Along with Benin, they are the only two sides that reached the round of 16 without winning any of their group games and that trend continued as they required penalties to take care of Ghana in the last 16 following a 1-1 draw in normal time.

Tunisia have not won a game in 90 minutes.

The Eagles of Carthage drew all their group games, 1-1 with Angola, 1-1 with Mali and then 0-0 verses lowly Mauritania.

Against Ghana, they struggled at the start but found their feet after captain Wahbi Khazri came on in the second half.

Alian Giresse’s side will once again look up to Khazri, Naim Sliti and Youssef Msakni for inspiration against Madagascar as they bid to reach the last 4.

For Madagascar, they have upset the odds already, finishing top of Group B and then overcoming DR Congo in the round of 16.

Madagascar eliminated DR Congo at the round of 16.

The game against DR Congo showcased how resolute Madagascar are and Tunisia will have to be at their best come Thursday, that is if they can finally end the minors’ dreams.

Despite a gulf in quality between the two sides, Madagascar will look to the likes of Faneva Imà Andriatsima and Paulin Voavy to cause yet another earthquake on the African continent.

Last meeting: Madagascar 0-2 Tunisia (05-05-2001)

Prediction: Madagascar 1-2 Tunisia

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