With the group stage wrapped up, we’ve seen plenty of football from Africa’s best and it’s been a shocking and exciting tournament thus far. Half of the field has been sent back to their clubs and eight remain to battle for Africa’s crown. Senegal, Congo and Egypt are flying heading into the knockout stages after notching a couple wins and remaining undefeated through the group stage. Among the eliminated field sit the defending champion Ivory Coast, pre-tournament favorites Algeria, and hopeful hosts Gabon. Here’s my analysis of the group stage and my take on what’s going to happen the rest of the way.
Senegal, Congo, and Egypt Fly Into the Quarterfinals
The three most dominant sides so far, both Senegal and Congo achieved the same feats in their respective groups. They each racked up a couple of wins and played out a draw each. Sadio Mane, the Liverpool superstar, has been running circles at AFCON thus far as Senegal have been very impressive in a difficult group that included Algeria. Congo achieved an impressive victory over Morocco in Group C and notched a nice 2-2 draw to defending champs Ivory Coast. Group C sees off the defending champions as Congo takes the Group C flag with Morocco coming in 2nd. Egypt was able to take the top of Group D after getting their win over Ghana. Egypt remains undefeated going into the knockout stages as they didn’t allow a single goal throughout the group stages. Senegal have a difficult task in the quarterfinals with Cameroon waiting in the wings. Congo gets Ghana in the quarterfinals who progressed from Group D. Egypt take on Morocco in the quarterfinals, I think Egypt could keep this run of form going.
Ivory Coast, Algeria, Gabon Crash
Three nations that had ambitions to greatly influence the tournament, the defending champions, pre-tournament favorites, and hopeful hosts have been ejected from the tournament. Combined all three nations had an 0-7-2 record (W-D-L), had a goal differential of -2 and all three finished third. To put it as frank as possible, it just wasn’t good enough. Zero wins will get your bags packing very quickly. Eric Bailly, Riyad Mahrez and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang return to their respective clubs.
Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt Advance
Algeria may have been bounced from the tournament, but North Africa is still well represented in the tournament as 3 of the 8 quarterfinalists are North African countries. Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt all advance to the quarterfinals as Tunisia and Morocco finish runner ups and Egypt topped D. I also think that the North African sides will continue to populate the deeper rounds. Egypt will take on Morocco in the quarterfinals and I think Egypt will lock up that spot into the Semifinals. Tunisia will take on Group A winners Burkina Faso.
Mane Flies as Liverpool Fall
On a quick note, Sadio Mane has been nothing short of terrific for Senegal. This has greatly affected Liverpool as their form has dropped with Mane’s departure and with Mane’s form setting up a deep run into the knockout rounds, Liverpool will need to learn how to succeed without him for another couple of weeks.
Burkina Faso, Cameroon Spoil Gabonese Party
As stated before, the hosts of the tournament, Gabon, were eliminated from Group A with Burkina Faso topping the group and Cameroon following them into the knockout rounds. Gabon, who had Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up top, had ambitions for a deep AFCON run but their dreams shatter after three uneventful draws. Burkina Faso took advantage and snatched the Group A crown, setting up a match with Tunisia in the quarterfinals.
Last but surely not least, a few other ejections were made from the tournament as well including the eliminations of: Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe, Togo, Uganda and Mali.
I think the final will consist of Egypt and Senegal. Mane and Salah. These guys have been monsters for their clubs and nations, Egypt and Senegal will run through their competition on their way to facing each other.