The African Cup of Nation (AFCON) may have been postponed a year, but that has not made for a lack in enthralling matches. The 24 team group stage is complete, and now the single-elimination matches kick off with the Round of 16!
The last 16
The final 16 teams are made of the winners, runners-up, and the four best third-place teams from the group stage. Here’s a look at the teams and matchups that make up the Round of 16:
- Burkina Faso vs Gabon
- Nigeria vs Tunisia
- Guinea vs Gambia
- Cameroon vs Comoros
- Senegal vs Cape Verde
- Morocco vs Malawi
- Ivory Coast vs Egypt
- Mali vs Equatorial Guinea
Each game will be the normal 90-minute match, but if there is no winner after that time, there will be two 15-minute periods of extra time. Should there still be no winner after those 30 minutes, then the match will be decided by penalty kicks. The matchups are set, and there’s been drama to get to this point. Let’s look at the matchups and how each nation got to this point!
Burkina Faso vs Gabon
Burkina Faso was runners-up in Group A, taking four points from their three matches. They lost to host Cameroon, beat Cape Verde, and drew Ethiopia. In each match, they were able to score a goal but lacked the ability to control the game to get a second.
Gabon was runners-up in Group C. They beat Comoros and drew Ghana and Morocco. This nation has some fight as they’ve been able to rally against good teams to get the results needed to get to the knockouts.
This has the makings of a knock-down-drag-out affair. Both teams can score a goal, but it will come down to who can stop attacks better. Their last matchup was a 1-1 draw at AFCON 2017 group stage. I’d expect a similar result and extra time from this one.
Nigeria vs Tunisia
Nigeria won Group D and is the only nation to take all nine points from their three matches. They beat Egypt, Sudan, and Guinea-Bissau. Now they look to keep their dominance going in the knockouts.
Tunisia was one of the four best third-place teams taking three points from Group F. They beat Mauritania and lost to Mali and Gambia. They are a nation that can beat teams worse off than them, but eventually fall to teams who can outlast them.
This match should be a one-sided affair. Nigeria is clearly the better team in this one, and if they don’t score early, then they could allow for Tunisia to get into the game and push for an upset. If Nigeria doesn’t win by multiple goals it’ll be a shock.
Guinea vs Gambia
Guinea was runners-up in Group B. They beat Malawi, drew Senegal, and lost to Zimbabwe. This is a side full of promise led by Naby Keita and the best young player of the group stage Ilaix Moriba.
Gambia was runners-up of Group F. They had the same amount of points as the group winners but finished second thanks to goal difference. They beat Mauritania and Tunisia and drew Mali. This is a team with upside led by Serie A players Ebrima Darboe and Musa Barrow.
Guinea seems to be the favorites in this match; however, they will have to play without captain and Liverpool player Naby Keita. He is suspended for yellow card accumulation. Will this open the door for a tough Gambia side to grind out a win?
Cameroon vs Comoros
Cameroon is the host nation for this tournament and won Group A. They beat Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and drew Cape Verde. They have the top scorer in the tournament so far leading their lines will that be enough to see them to the knockouts?
Comoros got to the knockouts by being one of the four best third-place teams. They had a historic win over Ghana and lost to Gabon and Morocco. They now have the difficult task of playing and trying to beat the hosts of AFCON 2021.
Cameroon is the overwhelming favorite in this match, and it makes sense why. They have the top scorer in the tournament and are playing a team that let up five goals in three games. Can Comoros get their defense organized enough to pull off what could be the upset of the tournament?
Senegal vs Cape Verde
Senegal was the winner of Group B. They beat Zimbabwe and drew Guinea and Malawi. While Senegal has only scored once in the group stage, they are still a hard team to beat.
Cape Verde is one of the four best third-place teams. They beat Ethiopia, lost to Burkina Faso, and drew Cameroon in Group A play. Now they get to face off against a pre-tournament favorite in the Round of 16.
Senegal is the favorite in this match. They have yet to be scored on in the tournament. Could creative Philadelphia Union player Jamiro Monteiro unlock the defense for Cape Verde, or will Liverpool’s Sadio Mane find a way to lead his nation to victory?
Morocco vs Malawi
Morocco won Group C. They beat Ghana and Comoros and drew Gabon. Their undefeated run helped them win their group and got two of their players in the best XI of the group stage.
Malawi is another of the best four third-place teams. They lost to Guinea, beat Zimbabwe, and drew Senegal in Group B play. They are another cinderella story in this tournament, could they continue their run?
Morocco is an overwhelming favorite in this match. They scored five goals in their group stage games and look to keep their scoring streak going. However, Malawi has been a good defensive team, only letting one goal go in in the group stage. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one was closer than people think, and possibly goes to extra time!
Ivory Coast vs Egypt
Ivory Coast was the winner of Group E. They beat Equatorial Guinea, tied Sierra Leone, and knocked the reigning AFCON champions Algeria out of the tournament. They move on to the knockouts full of confidence.
Egypt was runners-up in Group D. They lost to Nigeria and beat Guinea-Bissau and Sudan. They have fire power led by Liverpool’s Mo Salah, but can that push them to the quarterfinals?
This is a very even matchup. It has the makings for a classic that needs longer than 90 minutes to decide who moves on. For me, this match feels like it’ll take even more than that. I see this one going to a penalty shootout to decide who moves on.
Mali vs Equatorial Guinea
Mali won Group F. They beat Tunisia and Mauritania and drew Gambia. They were able to score four goals and only allow one in through three matches can they keep this good run going?
Equatorial Guinea was runners-up in Group E. They fell to Ivory Coast but beat reigning AFCON title holders Algeria and Sierra Leone. Their nation is one of resolve as has been shown in their wins to get to the knockouts.
Mali is the favorite in this match, to keep that status they’ll need to keep scoring the way they did in the group stage. If Equatorial Guinea’s defense can keep them in the game, or they’re gifted that chance by Mali, then this one could swing the other direction!
Who will make the quarterfinals?
All the matchups are set and previewed. Each of the 16 nations worked hard to get to this point. Who will be the eight that prevail and make it to the quarterfinals? We’ll all have to watch and find out! Once the quarters are set we’ll have a full breakdown of what went on in the Round of 16 and a preview of the Quarterfinals matchups!
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Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH