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AFCON 2019 Round of 16 Preview

AFCON 2019 Round of 16 Preview: Nigeria vs Cameroon, Ghana vs Tunisia, and all the key talking points ahead of the knockout stage

July 3, 2019 By Emmanuel K. Budu-Annor
Eight are out and another eight will depart after this round. Here is all you need to know ahead of the AFCON 2019 Round of 16:

Hosts Egypt and Nigeria were the first two teams to confirm their spots at the knockout stage of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations having won their opening two fixtures. However, the latter was made to settle for second position in Group B following a surprise defeat to Madagascar in its final match.

While the debutants set up a Round of 16 date with DR Congo as group winners, the Super Eagles now has to beat off tough competition from defending champions Cameroon in a bid to progress to the last 8.

On the other hand Egypt has been handed a relatively tricky test against South Africa whose optimism to secure a ticket to the last 16 was dragged on right until the final round of group stage matches. The Bafana Bafana qualified on the merit of being one of the best third-placed teams with three points and a goal advantage in Group D.

A clash that will also gain a lot of traction is the one between Group F winners Ghana and second runners-up of Group E, Tunisia. The Black Stars worked through grit and sweat to progress to the knockout phase with a 2-0 win over Guinea in its third game, having drawn the previous two matches against Cameroon and Benin. Relatively, the Carthage Eagles drew all three group games in succession to book their last 16 spot.

Another blockbuster is in the pipes with Mali and Ivory Coast set to test their prowess against each other. See the complete Round of 16 pairings below:

Key talking points ahead of AFCON 2019 Round of 16

  • CAF's Group Stage XI and Trezeguet's surprise omission

The AFCON 2019 Group Stage best eleven was revealed by CAF following the conclusion of the last round of matches on Tuesday. Despite Egypt getting four representatives in the mix, there was no room for the Pharaoh's winger Mahmoud 'Trezeguet' Hassan in the lineup or on the substitute bench.

The attacker was quite instrumental in the wins over Zimbabwe and DR Congo, scoring and providing an assist in the outings respectively. Meanwhile, Senegal's Sadio Mane deservedly earned a spot in the squad alongside his teammate Mohamed Salah. Ghana's group stage hero Jordan Ayew completed the attacking trio after scoring twice for his country in their Group F campaign.

The midfield featured another star figure in Algeria's Riyad Mahrez and was complemented by his compatriot Ismail Bennacer as well as Madagascar's Andrianantenaina. Egypt's El Shenawy secured his position in between the stick for his group stage heroics and was shielded by a defense comprising of Ashraf Hakimi, Hegay, Yaya Banana and Elmohamady.

  • The race for AFCON 2019 Golden Boot

The competitiveness of the AFCON 2019 has also been witnessed in the race for the tournament's top goalscorer accolade. Ahead of the Round of 16, no player leads the pack as the breakaway topscorer.

It might take a while to decide as 11 players are currently in the running for the award. Below is how the Africa Cup of Nations 2019 top scorers' chat looks like ahead of the Round of 16:

  1. Adam Ounas, Algeria: 2 goals

  2. Carolus Andriamahitsinoro, Madagascar: 2 goals

  3. Mohamed Yattara, Guinea: 2 goals

  4. Sadio Mane, Senegal: 2 goals

  5. Mickael Pote, Benin: 2 goals

  6. Emmanuel Okwi, Uganda: 2 goals

  7. Ahmed Elmohamady, Egypt: 2 goals

  8. Jordan Ayew, Ghana: 2 goals

  9. Cedric Bakambu, DR Congo: 2 goals

  10. Michael Olunga, Kenya: 2 goals

  11. Mohamed Salah, Egypt: 2 goals

  • Dark horses in the running for AFCON 2019 glory

There were a few surprising results along the line in the group stages but the household names affirmed their respective pedigree by sealing qualification to the last 16. Once again, optimism is high for the likes of Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Morocco to go all the way and secure the coveted continental trophy.

Nevertheless, there are a few party-poopers in town who could well defy the odds and stage a remarkable run in the knockout stage. One such is the Cranes of Uganda.

Under the supervision of Sebastien Desabre, they progressed as runners-up from Group A  with a win and a draw against DR Congo and Zimbabwe respectively. It took the genius of Mohamed Salah and his compatriots to condemn the South Africans to their first defeat in five matches, a result which also saw them concede more than one goal for the first time in five matches.

Uganda's exploits have mostly been down to the brilliance of goalkeeper Denis Onyango in post as well as the attacking proficiency of Emmanuel Okwi and Farouk Miya. However, the day of reckoning is just around the corner with the team set for a Round of 16 date with Sadio Mane's Senegal.

Knowing the firepower the Teranga Lions possess, the Cranes fate lies in how they would collectively curb the rampant attacking threat while looking for a loophole in the bullish defense. Should an upset ensue at the Cairo International Stadium on Friday, the path of Desabre's men will be cleared for a potential clash with either Morocco or Benin in the quarter-finals. Victory will set them up for a semi-final showdown with either Madagascar, DR Congo, Ghana or Tunisia.

All in all, they do stand a chance of finding their way into the AFCON's history books should they successfully lay Senegal to waste although the task remains as daunting as possible.

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