AFCON 2019: Final Comes Early as Cameroun face Nigeria - In top liner for cagey Round of 16 ties
A grande finale has come early for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as an explosive game involving defending champions Cameroun and 2015 champions, Nigeria, has been lined up as one of the eight match-ups for the Round of 16 tie.
After 36 matches at the group stage involving the 24 participating teams, the men have been separated from the boys, and 16 teams remain in the competition and will compete in the next stage while eight have been eliminated.
At the end of the group campaign, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Angola, Mauritania and Guinea Bissau have said their goodbyes and left for home.
Now the remaining 16 teams, made up of the top two from each group and the four best third-place teams, move into the next level to vie for places into the quarter-finals.
While qualification was simple for some teams such as hosts Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and surprising debutants, Madagascar, who topped their groups, most of Africa’s heavyweights, also favourites at this tournament, including former champions, had to go through a nail-biting process, leaving it till the final group matches to secure their qualification.
Nigeria were stunned 0-2 in their final Group B game against Madagascar, thus relinquishing the top spot to the debutants, while Nigeria were pushed down to second place.
Cote d’Ivoire (Group D) and Ghana (Group F) had to put up brave performances to eventually seal their qualification, while the Ivorians, after a not-too-impressive first two games, recorded a 4-1 win against Namibia to advance as group runners-up behind Morocco.
Ghana also put up a performance expected of their pedigree to beat Guinea-Bissau 2-0 to finish as Group F leaders on the superior goals scored, overtaking Cameroun in their group as the defending champions failed to score against Benin in their final game.
Benin, South Africa, DR Congo and Uganda were the lucky best third-place sides to sail through.
Having taken a two-day break, the competition resumes tomorrow with some crackers.
It is easier to pick Morocco over Benin and Senegal over Uganda in the opening matches tomorrow.
However, Saturday’s games won’t be that easy to predict, given the pedigree of the two sides and the rivalry between them. Nigeria come into this game as the 2015 champions, while Cameroun are the reigning champions, having won the 2017 edition in Gabon.
In Egypt, both have not been that convincing but faced with the reality of winning or be sent packing, they will come hard at each other.
However, if it is a match to be won by the coaches leading the team, then the Super Eagles will have the edge over the Indomitable Lions, given the experience of Gernot Rohr as against Clarence Seedorf.