Preview of the knockout stages of AFCON 2021

The African Cup of Nations (CAN) may have been postponed for a year, but there was no shortage of exciting matches. The 24-team group stage is over, and now the knockout matches begin with the round of 16!

Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH

Last 16

The final 16 teams are made up of the winners, runners-up and four best third-placed teams from the group stage. Here is an overview of the teams and clashes that make up the round of 16:

  • Burkina Faso v Gabon
  • Nigeria v Tunisia
  • Guinea vs Gambia
  • Cameroon vs Comoros
  • Senegal vs Cape Verde
  • Morocco v Malawi
  • Ivory Coast vs Egypt
  • Mali vs Equatorial Guinea

Each game will be the normal 90 minute game, but if there is no winner after that time there will be two 15 minute overtime periods. If there is still no winner after these 30 minutes, the game will be decided by a penalty shootout. The matchups are set, and there has been drama to get to this point. Let’s look at the clashes and how each nation got there!

Burkina Faso v Gabon

Burkina Faso finished second in Group A, taking four points from three matches. They lost to Cameroon, beat Cape Verde and drew against Ethiopia. In every game they managed to score a goal but lacked the ability to control play to get a second.

Gabon finished second in Group C. They beat Comoros and drew with Ghana and Morocco. This nation is struggling to fight because they were able to rally against good teams to get the results needed to get to the knockouts.

Sounds like a rollover case. Both teams can score a goal, but it will depend on who can stop attacks better. Their last game was a 1-1 draw in AFCON 2017 group stage. I would expect a similar result and extra time from this one.

Nigeria v Tunisia

Nigeria won Group D and are the only nation to win all nine points from their three matches. They beat Egypt, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau. Now they are looking to maintain their dominance in knockouts.

Tunisia were one of the top four teams in third place taking three points from Group F. They beat Mauritania and lost to Mali and Gambia. This is a nation that can beat teams worse than them, but ultimately fall to teams that can outlast them.

This game should be one sided. Nigeria are clearly the better team in this one, and if they don’t score early they could allow Tunisia to come into the game and cause an upset. If Nigeria don’t win by several goals, it will be a shock.

Guinea vs Gambia

Guinea were second in Group B. They beat Malawi, drew with Senegal and lost to Zimbabwe. It’s a team full of promise led by Naby Keita and the best young player in the group stage Ilaix Moriba.

Gambia were second in Group F. They had the same number of points as the group winners but finished second on goal difference. They beat Mauritania and Tunisia and drew against Mali. They are an advantage team led by Serie A players Ebrima Darboe and Musa Barrow.

Guinea seems to be the favorite of this match; however, they will have to play without Liverpool captain and player Naby Keita. He is suspended for accumulation of yellow cards. Will this open the door for a tough Gambia side to claim a victory?

Cameroon vs Comoros

Cameroon is the host country of this tournament and won Group A. They beat Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and drew against Cape Verde. They have the tournament’s top scorer so far topping their lines, will that be enough to see them qualify for knockouts?

Comoros reached the round of 16 as one of the top four teams in third place. They scored a historic win over Ghana and lost to Gabon and Morocco. They now have the difficult task of playing and trying to beat the AFCON 2021 hosts.

Cameroon is the big favorite of this match, and we understand why. They have the tournament’s top scorer and face a side that have allowed five goals in three games. Can Comoros organize their defense well enough to pull off what could be the surprise of the tournament?

Senegal vs Cape Verde

Senegal was the winner of Group B. They beat Zimbabwe and drew against Guinea and Malawi. While Senegal have only scored once in the group stage, they remain a tough team to beat.

Cape Verde is one of the top four teams in third place. They beat Ethiopia, lost to Burkina Faso and drew Cameroon in Group A. Now they can face a pre-tournament favorite in the round of 16.

Senegal is the favorite of this match. They have yet to be scored in the tournament. Could Philadelphia Union’s creative player Jamiro Monteiro unlock Cape Verde’s defense, or will Liverpool’s Sadio Mane find a way to lead his country to victory?

Morocco v Malawi

Morocco won Group C. They beat Ghana and Comoros and drew Gabon. Their unbeaten run helped them win their group and place two of their players in the best XI of the group stage.

Another top four team in third place is Malawi. They lost to Guinea, beat Zimbabwe and drew against Senegal in Group B. They are another Cinderella story in this tournament, could they continue their run?

Morocco is a big favorite in this game. They have scored five goals in their group stage matches and are looking to continue their scoring streak. However, Malawi were a good defensive team, allowing just one goal in the group stage. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one was closer than people think, and might go to overtime!

Ivory Coast vs Egypt

Ivory Coast won Group E. They beat Equatorial Guinea, tied Sierra Leone and eliminated defending CAN champions Algeria from the tournament. They move on to knockouts full of confidence.

Egypt was second in Group D. They lost to Nigeria and beat Guinea-Bissau and Sudan. They have firepower led by Liverpool’s Mo Salah, but can that push them into the quarter-finals?

It’s a very even game. It has the makings of a classic that needs over 90 minutes to decide who passes. For me, this match seems to take even more than that. I see this one going to penalties to decide who passes.

Mali vs Equatorial Guinea

Mali won Group F. They beat Tunisia and Mauritania and drew against Gambia. They managed to score four goals and allowed only one in three matches, can they continue this good momentum?

Equatorial Guinea were second in Group E. They fell to Ivory Coast but beat AFCON title holders Algeria and Sierra Leone. Their nation is resolute, as their wins to qualify for knockouts have shown.

Mali are the favorites in this game, to keep this status they will have to keep scoring as they did in the group stage. If Equatorial Guinea’s defense can keep them in the game, or if Mali gives them that chance, then it could go the other way!

Who will make the quarter-finals?

All matches are defined and previewed. Each of the 16 nations has worked hard to get here. Who will be the eight who will win and qualify for the quarter-finals? We will all have to watch and find out! Once the Quarter-Finals are set, we’ll get a full look at what happened in the Round of 16 and a preview of the Quarter-Finals matches!

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Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH

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