The quarterfinals of Africa’s first 24 team AFCON have delivered their verdict with four teams out of 24 still standing.
There are five trophies between the four teams still left in the tournament with only Senegal amongst the last four who are yet to win the trophy. These are arguably Africa’s best with the first two African teams on the FIFA rankings, Senegal and Tunisia and the competition’s fourth most successful team Nigeria with three trophies and 1990 winners Algeria still in contention.
The Teranga Lions saw off a challenge from the Squirrels of Benin who surprised many to reach this level of the competition for the first time.
The Teranga Lions in their eighth AFCON quarterfinals appearance made it five wins in eight, thanks to a 70th minute strike from their Everton midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye.
With four draws in relatively unconvincing displays in their first four games, the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia made light work of an already heroic Malagasy team.
Tunisia who were in their 10th AFCON quarterfinal and are playing the competition for a 14th consecutive time made their experience count. Their misfiring front line finally came to live in the second half against Madagascar who had frustrated them in the first half to a 0-0 score. Their 27 year old Zamalek midfielder Ferjani Sassi break the deadlock at the 52nd minute when his deflected effort left Madagascar’s goalkeeper Melvin Adrien wrong footed. Their top scorer in the competition Youssef Msakni who provided the first goal for Sassi then pounced on some hesitant defending to punish Madagascar for Tunisia’s second. Niam Sliti rounded the scoring at the 90th minute after he was served by Wahbi Khazri in a classic counter attacking move at the 90th minute.
Tunisia have now won five of their quarterfinals games in the AFCON. Senegal lies in waiting for place in the final.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria have won all but one of their quarterfinal ties in the AFCON. They only failed to beat Ghana in the 2008 tournament at this level of the competition.
On their way for a place in the semifinals were Stuart Baxter’s Bafana Bafana of South Africa.
South Africa were playing the quarterfinals for a sixth time and had lost the last two after winning the first three.
Nigeria took the lead through their 20 year old wonder boy Samuel Chukwueze at the 27th minute.
South African midfielder Bongani Zungu leveled the scores at the 71st minute for his second goal in the tournament but the Super Eagles put their trust in William Troost-Ekong who made sure of their qualification at the 89th minute. The 2013 winners will fight for a place in the final against Algeria who defeated them in the final of the 1990 tournament.
The Desert Foxes of Algeria were playing their fifth quarterfinals in the AFCON since it was introduced in 1992 and they only succeeded to beat Zambia on penalties in the 2010 tournament.
Their 27 year old Al Saad forward Baghdad Bounedjah was a relieved man at the end of a nail bitting contest with the most fouls (58), the most yellow cards (7) and the most shots attempted (36) in the 2019 tournament.
Sofiane Feghouli put Algeria ahead at the 20th minute as it all looked like routine for Algeria who had scored nine goals without conceding in the tournament. They could have put the tie out of reach at the 42nd minute, but Baghdad Bounedjah failed to convert a penalty that was awarded to them after a right penalty call from Ethiopian referee Bamlak Tessema.
Ivory Coast’s Aston Villa forward Jonathan Kodjia got their equalizer and his second in the tournament at the 62nd minute after a beautiful combination with Wilfried Zaha.
The tie had to go down to the wire.
After a barren extra time, the tie had to be decided on penalties. Standing Ivorian captain Serey Die missed the crucial spot kick that could have still kept them in contention in the game as his shot agonizingly came off the woodwork. Wilfried Bony also missed his spot kick and just like Serey Die he was one of six Ivorian players that were in the 2015 wining squad present in the team in Egypt.
Youcef Belaili also missed for Algeria but his miss was inconsequential. Ivory Coast have now lost five of their seven shootouts in the AFCON.
A total of nine goals were scored in the quarterfinals with one game decided through post match penalties. The men in black flashed out 16 yellow and cards and one red card in the four ties.
The semi-finals promises to be even more exciting and interesting with some very old AFCON campaigners and mouth watering ties.
Senegal CS Tunisia ( 30 June Stadium, 17:00 CAT, Sunday July 14)
Algeria vs Nigeria ( Cairo International Stadium, 20:00, July 14).
Nigeria will be making their record 14th semi final appearance.
Tunisia will be in the semi final for the first time since they won the trophy at home in 2004.
Algeria’s golden generation finally get to the semi’s after multiple failed attempts.
Senegal are in their first AFCON semi final in 17 years.