Battles that can easily pass for a final clash have been lined up as the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) move into the quarter-finals stage tomorrow and Thursday.
Not only will the rivalry between the match-up teams will be played out, but the stakes in this competition and to ultimately be champions, will be the drive to put up performances fit to be the last of an exciting competition.
Out of the eight teams that have sailed through, five — Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Tunisia are former champions who are keen on being crowned winners again, while Senegal, Benin and Madagascar will be pushing to inch closer to realising their dream of lifting the trophy for the first time.
Having survived the Round of 16 tie that swept some of the tournament’s favourites away, the eight teams remaining come face to face with yet another cagey hurdles to clear in their bid to ultimately win the title.
Nigeria against South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire against Algeria, Senegal against Benin and Tunisia against Madagascar are matches scheduled for the next round, setting up revenge or avenge encounters in African football.
Given what they have brought to the party so far, much interest will be how debutantes Madagascar fare but the crunch duels will be Nigeria, South Africa encounter as well as the Cote d’Ivoire, Algeria game.
The Super Eagles, four times champions, will be out seeking their first AFCON win against Bafana Bafana at any level.
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Though they have clashed in either AFCON qualifiers (five times) and World Cup qualifiers, this will be the first time they clash in the competition itself and the Nigerians who lead their 13 times meeting with six wins, five losses and two draws, will be eager to add a seventh.
Among the eight teams, the Desert Foxes of Algeria have been the most convincing side. The only side yet to have won by a huge margin in regulation time, beating Guinea 3-0 in their game last Sunday.
On that form, they will be eyeing their first win against the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire at the AFCON. There have been five meetings between them at previous AFCONs and three have gone the way of the Ivorians, while the other two have ended in draws.