Majority of the group stage matches at the ongoing African Cup of Nations in Egypt may have looked like a dose of sleeping pill, a punishment of boredom for being too engrossed with the European leagues but slowly a storm was building the supposed experienced sailors on the sea of African football failed to see.
Twelve group stage winners and runner ups were joined by four best losers for the round of 16 in the new format, Senegal had a routine victory over Uganda with Sadio Mane scoring to put the Teranga Lions through but the first tremo came from Cairo at the Al Salam Stadium, Benin republic changing the script of the play, for a team that drew all it’s 3 group games to qualify, Morocco who gathered all 9points were the favorites.
Benin republic had led in the 53rd minutes but En Neysri restored parity, Ajax Amsterdam wonderboy Hakim Ziyech had the chance to win it in the added time but only struck his kick at base of the bar. The west Africans had never made the quarter finals in previous participation in the Nation’s Cup but went on to do so by beating the North Africans on penalties.
Hosts Egypt were expected to have an easy ride over South Africa but Thembinkosi Lorch scored five minutes from time to send various magnitudes of earthquake and heartbreak across the streets of Egypt. It wasn’t supposed to happen, but the unthinkable happened.
This came after a pulsating game between the defending Champions Cameroon and Nigeria had showered rain of goals.
The Super Eagles took the lead, went behind during the cause of the game and managed to secure the win. Odion ighalo‘s brace made it 10th goal in 10 games for Nigeria while Alex Iwobi scored a smart goal to send the sloppy West Africans through.
Madagascar continued it’s giant slaying and fairy tale run towards the AFCON title eliminating DR Congo, the last of Group A teams left in the competition. For a team that started it’s AFCON campaign from the very beginning in the preliminary qualifiers, the malagasy have “over” over-acheived and they did in style.
Three debutants started the competition, Madagascar, Burundi and Mauritania, while other two were baptized in fire, malagasy finished atop Group B unbeaten, beating 2013 Champions, Nigeria and fellow debutants Burundi.
Tunisia managed to edge Ghana on penalties while Ivory Coast had Zaha to thank for their lone goal Victory over fellow west Africans, Mali.
For an AFCON criticised for low turnout of fans, boring matches and poor tactical display in the group stages, the round of 16 results just showed one thing…… The games has just begun
AFCON 2019 Quarter-finals
Senegal vs Benin, July 10. 5pm
Nigeria vs South Africa, July 10. 8pm
Ivory Coast vs Algeria, July 11 5pm
Madagascar vs Tunisia, Juy 11. 8pm