Al Jazeera previews the four Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals that see a mix of favourites and minnows face off.
The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations has been a tournament of upsets with favourites Morocco, defending champions Senegal and record-winners Egypt all out of the competition before the quarterfinals.
Here’s our run down of the tournament’s last-eight stage, which is set to take place across Friday and Saturday:
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1. Nigeria vs Angola: Friday, February 2 at 17:00 GMT
After the scything down of African footballing giants in the group stage and round of 16, Nigeria stand as clear favourites to claim a fourth AFCON title.
It’s been far from plain sailing for the Super Eagles after a draw in their opening match with Equatorial Guinea set up a tense second match with host Ivory Coast. Nigeria’s 1-0 win set them on the way to second spot in the group, which was later confirmed by a 1-0 win against Guinea-Bissau in the third game.
The last-16 encounter with Cameroon was a repeat of the 1984 final and was billed as the best striker Victor Osimhen vs the best goalkeeper Andre Onana. As it was, Onana was benched again by coach Rigobert Song while Ademola Lookman bagged both goals to send Nigeria through. Osimhen was praised for his “fantastic” performance, however, and it was his tireless running that set up the first goal. However, it’s just one goal in four matches as the tournament for the African Footballer of the Year, and whether he finds his goalscoring touch in tighter games could be the balance between success or failure for the Super Eagles.
Meanwhile, Angola are only the minnows quickly becoming a force. The 2019 champions Algeria were the Southern African nation’s biggest test in the group stage. A 1-1 draw with them served the Angolans better as they topped the group with victories against Burkina Faso and Mauritania, while the Algerians finished bottom. As fine a run as Angola have had, anything other than a victory for Nigeria would be the biggest shock of a tournament that has already sprung plenty of surprises.
2. DRC vs Guinea: Friday, February 2 at 20:00 GMT
Although former winners in 1968 and 1974, DRC were, and to some extent still are, far from expected challengers. Indeed, the Central African nation have yet to win a game in normal time at this year’s edition. Their second spot in the group, behind tournament favourites Morocco, was secured via three draws. However, the 2012 winners Zambia were pushed into the third spot. Finishing between these sides is not an achievement to be sniffed at, no matter the manner it was achieved.