The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 will start on Friday, June 05 with two games.
After the tournament was increased to 24 teams, it means the last 16 will be a knockout round as opposed from the usual group stage.
The 2019 edition in Egypt has already treated us to a few shocks and one or two pre-tournament favourites have so far lived up to the billing.
Who will shock the world of football and which favourite will continue into the last 8?
-Madagascar vs DR Congo
What a relief it must be for Florent Ibange and his Democratic Republic of Congo after they somehow reached the last 16.
The Leopards looked done and dusted after losing their first two games to Uganda and Egypt (both 0-2). However, a stunning 4-0 victory salvaged their campaign, seeing them ranked third on the four-team list of best third-placed sides.
After the loss to the Cranes, DR Congo improved but once again lost to the Pharaohs. They then produced a performance worthy of their two AFCON titles, one which if replicated will see Madagascar stand no chance of upsetting the odds.
Yannick Bolasie is yet to arrive at the tournament after two poor displays in the first two games but this is the stage meant for superstars. DR Congo also have Cedric Bakambu who scored a brace in the 4-0 demolition of Zimbabwe plus Jonathan Bolingi as the players to spur them on.
For Madagascar, they upset the odds once already, finishing top of Group B and will be attempting to repeat the trick on Sunday against DR Congo.
The debutants drew 2-2 with Guinea in their first ever AFCON game before going on to defeat Burundi 1-0 and Nigeria 2-0. For some, it may feel like they have gone as far as they could but Nicholas Dupius’s men seem to be hungry for more.
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 1-6 DR Congo (05-06-2016)
Prediction: Madagascar 1-3 DR Congo
-Algeria vs Guinea
Along with Morocco and Egypt, Algeria is the other side who ended the group stages with maximum points.
The Desert Warriors scored an average of two goals as they defeated Senegal, Kenya and Tanzania to finish top of Group C.
Their tally of six goals scored can only be matched by Mali, further proving how impressive Djemal Belmadi’s side have so far been at the 2019 AFCON.
Algeria have had five different goal scorers in the tournament so far with only Napoli’s Adam Ounas banging more than one goal (2) and with the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Sofiane Feghouli and Ismael Bennacer, the Desert Warriors will have their sights set on prolonging their stay in Egypt.
In their path to the last 8, stands a Guinea side that have so far disappointed at the tournament.
Despite having 2018/19 UEFA Champions League winner-Naby Keita in their ranks, the National Elephants have been a below average side, only reaching the last 16 as part of the four best third-placed teams at the competition.
Paul Pat’s army required a 2-0 victory over Burundi to get out of Group B after they had drawn 2-2 with Madagascar and then lost 0-1 to Nigeria on Match-Day two.
The test of Algeria may be too much to handle on paper by they have got some good players who can help them overcome the task. Keita will shoulder the West Africans’ hopes and Ibrahima Traore plus Francios Kamano will be looking to help the Liverpool man.
Last meeting: Algeria 2-1 Guinea (07-06-2019)
Prediction: Algeria 2-1 Guinea
-Mali vs Ivory Coast
Mali had a blistering start to the 2019 AFCON, putting four goals past a hapless Mauritania side on matchday one, the most scored by any side.
They then scrapped to a 1-1 draw against Tunisia in the second leg, sealing a round of 16 spot before defeating stingless Angola in the last game.
However, the last two games have not been magnificent in terms of display and they will go into the round of 16 game against Ivory Coast with major concerns.
Moussa Marega, Abdoulay Diaby and captain Molly Wague will be the players to shine if Mali can pull off an upset against the Elephants on Sunday.
For Ivory Coast, they have had one issue after another, already in the competition.
Their stars including Nicholas Pepe, Wilfred Zaha and Jonathan Kodjia have failed to live up to the billing on top of putting up average performances in two of their three games.
The Elephants scrapped two a 1-0 win over South Africa before losing 0-1 to Morocco in the second game. They then produced their best performance as they defeated Namibia 4-1 to seal second spot on the Group D log. The game against Namibia is one they were expected to win however and it should not blind anyone.
However, they have world class players in their ranks who are very much capable of ripping Mali apart.
Last meeting: Mali 0-0 Ivory Coast (06-10-2017)
Prediction: Mali 0-1 Ivory Coast
-Ghana vs Tunisia
Ghana have reached the last four of all the last 6 AFCON tournaments since 2008.
However, they have barely impressed so far, winning only one of their three games at the 2019 edition.
Kwesi Appiah’s side drew 2-2 with Benin, 0-0 with Cameroon before defeating Guine-Bissau 2-0 in the third game, one they only showed their class in the second half. The result meant Ghana finished top of Group F by virtue of goals scored.
Jordan Ayew looks to be the one providing the spark but with the other Ayew (Andre), Mubarak Wakaso and Thomas Party in their ranks, the Black Stars are very much capable of overcoming Tunisia.
For Tunisia, they are currently have a tournament to forget as they have so far failed to win any of their games. Along with Benin, they are the only two sides that reached the round of 16 without winning any of their group games.
The Eagles of Carthage drew all their games, 1-1 with Angola, 1-1 with Mali and then 0-0 verses lowly Mauritania.
People back home are craving for a victory and which better way to get it than defeating a side of Ghan’s pedigree?
Alian Giresse’s side will look up to captain Wahbi Khazri, Naim Sliti and Youssef Msakni for inspiration on Monday.
Last meeting: Ghana 4-2 Tunisia (13-01-2013)
Prediction: Ghana 0-0 Tunisia (Ghana win on penalties)