AFCON 2021 Quarter Final Predictions For All 4 Games; Senegal remains the favorite as the AFCON approaches the final eight, but they will be challenged by hosts Cameroon and Mohamed Salah’s Egypt.
It was always going to be a risky move to keep Mohamed Salah out of the game-winning penalty against the Ivory Coast.
It’s possible that his country would have bowed out without their talisman having any impact on the shootout if his teammates hadn’t converted their own spot-kicks.
It could have backfired catastrophically, but it did not, and few forwards are better prepared to deliver in situations like these. Sadio Mane, a Liverpool teammate, concluded Senegal’s triumph over Cape Verde in a hospital bed following a sickening head contact.
Despite this, both have advanced to the last eight as the competition nears its conclusion next week.
The tournament favorites have advanced to the quarter-finals, but no one knows how well they are performing.
They won their group despite only scoring one goal (a penalty in the 97th minute) and then only defeating Cape Verde when their opponents were reduced to nine men, including their first-choice goalie being dismissed.
Advantage: Their defensive toughness. You may argue that Senegal has yet to face a top-tier opponent, but they have allowed only 7.7 shots per game so far, which is the second-best record in the competition behind Morocco.
Disadvantage: Senegal isn’t lacking in chances (with 54 places them second in the quarter-finals behind Tunisia), but their finishing has let them down. They’ve got 35 shots from within the penalty box, but only two goals have come from open play.
That will have to change when they meet a more quality opponent. However, a road through Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, and Tunisia might get them to the final. It’s best to stay in the upper half of the draw.
Egypt and Salah are keeping their powder dry if they want to light up this tournament. If we were being charitable, we’d point out that they’ve faced Ivory Coast and Nigeria, two of the tournament’s most remarkable teams, and have outlasted both.
If we were being harsh, we’d say Egypt had been a touch boring, given that they currently have the best player in the world.
Advantage: Since Kelechi Iheanacho’s first goal for Nigeria, their defense has been flawless. They gave Guinea-Bissau and Sudan a total of four shots on target while keeping clean sheets in both games and then slowed the game down to squeeze the Ivorians just as they appeared to be gaining the upper hand.
Quieroz isn’t concerned with your aesthetic objections; he’s here to win.
Disadvantage: Morocco had the fewest shots on goal in the tournament, and Egypt’s fear must be that their opponents just have more tools with which to injure them. Can Quieroz really expect to shut down another game, fail to provide efficient service to Salah, and rely on luck once more?
The goalscoring of Vincent Aboubakar, who has double the number of goals of any other player at the competition, has helped the host nation get off to a strong start.
They earned seven points from a relatively easy group stage draw, but struggled against Comoros, who had only 13 fit players, one outfield player in goal, and were relegated to ten men after just seven minutes.
Cameroon is now equal favorites to win the title as hosts, with the Gambia in the quarter-finals, another beneficial draw at this point of a big tournament.
The Comoros game, however, was marred by tragedy, when a crush claimed at least eight lives and left others with serious injuries.
Advantage: Aboubakar’s goals, dubbed “Aboutcho” in Cameroon, have been a revelation. Not only is he the clear favorite to earn the tournament’s top goalscorer, but if Cameroon wins the AFCON final on February 6, Aboubakar would join the pantheon of legendary Cameroonian attackers that including Roger Milla and Samuel Eto’o.
Disadvantage: Cameroon has yet to keep a clean sheet at the AFCON, surrendering one to each of their four opponents.
Supporters are concerned that their relatively easy path to the quarter-finals has concealed any weaknesses in the team that could be exploited in the tournament’s latter stages.
AFCON 2021’s surprise package. The Gambia had never qualified for a major tournament before and began this year’s competition as the lowest-ranked team (150th in Fifa’s rankings).
However, they took advantage of Tunisia’s slow start to the competition and an opening game against Mauritania, who had lost both of their group games, to finish second in Group F and then defeat Guinea in the last-16.
Advantage: Musa Barrow is the team’s superstar, having played some of the greatest football of his international career in this tournament, scoring two goals and providing two assists in four games.
The nucleus of Serie A players, though, is the actual key to Gambia’s success. Six members of their squad, including the team’s core, play their football in Italy.
Disadvantage: Gambia’s progress in this tournament has followed a very predictable pattern. They’ve won all three of their games by the same 1-0 margin.
They give up possession (37.6% on average throughout their four games) in order to maximize their chances in front of the goal (19 of the 24 teams at AFCON have registered more shots per match).
The question is whether such a strategy will work against a country like Cameroon.
Burkina Faso has earned a reputation as one of the AFCON’s great overachievers over the last decade.
Despite never qualifying for the World Cup (losing to Algeria in 2022), the Stallions reached the final in 2013, finished third in 2017, and are presently in the quarter-finals in Cameroon after defeating Gabon on penalties in the last-16.
Advantage: Despite the fact that the Burkinabe league is of inferior quality, the country has been able to export players to high-level European divisions in recent years, and they now form the basis of a side that has the ability to cause Tunisia problems in the quarter-finals. Edmond Tapsoba, a central defender for Bayer Leverkusen, is expected to join an elite club soon.
Disadvantage: Goals have been an issue for them, and Tunisia will be the most difficult opponent to break down. Burkina Faso has scored once in each of its four matches and battled ten-man Gabon in the last-16 before winning on penalties.
Tunisia’s fear is that they will make the quarter-finals and prove to be far too powerful.
So far, it’s difficult to know what to make of Tunisia. For the fourth straight AFCON, they have advanced to the quarter-finals, avoiding the setbacks suffered by Ghana and Algeria in the group stage. They struggled through Group F with a convincing win over minnows Mauritania and shock losses to Mali and Gambia, but then stunned Nigeria in the last-16, who had been the tournament’s most outstanding team up to that moment.
Advantage: Only four teams remain in the tournament with more shots on target per game than Tunisia, who argue that their performances thus far have not been fully rewarded. However, the key to success at a major tournament is surviving on-pitch adversity, which Tunisia has done well.
Disadvantage: Outside of the comfortable win over Mauritania, Tunisia has only scored one goal, and the problem has been getting center-forward Seifeddine Jaziri into dangerous positions.
Wahbi Khazri provides a threat down the left flank, which may be enough to beat Burkina Faso, but Tunisia will struggle to win the tournament until they improve their penalty-area production.
Equatorial Guinea’s success is no less shocking given that The Gambia is the lowest-ranked team still in the tournament.
He’s taking on the role of Roger Milla, stepping into the spotlight and motivating his troops.
Advantage: They’ve devised a plan and are sticking to it. Equatorial Guinea was lucky against Algeria and Mali, allowing 27 shots without conceding, but they want to keep control, sit deep, and play direct balls to Dorian Hanza, a teenage striker.
There are legitimate concerns about what happens if kids fall behind, but for the time being, it’s functioning perfectly.
Disadvantage: Equatorial Guinea has had only three shots on goal per game on average, with more than half of its shots coming from outside the penalty area.
Equatorial Guinea has scored two goals in the competition, one from a corner and the other from a free-kick routine and long-range strike, as a result of such low-percentage chances.
There’s a case to be made that Morocco has been the strongest team at the AFCON so far, given the variety of opponents they’ve faced, the fairly dominant manner in which they won their group, and the various types of victories they’ve achieved (twice coming from behind to win and draw, twice winning while keeping a clean sheet).
Advantage: Morocco remains dedicated to their tactic of short passes outside the penalty area, with Hakimi and Adam Masina overlapping and allowing Sofiane Boufal to drift centrally, waiting for a defensive lapse. So far at the AFCON, they’ve created 39 chances, only five of them have come from long balls. By a long shot, that is the lowest ratio of any remaining squad in the tournament.
Disadvantage: Morocco’s strikers had been a little quiet until En-goal Nesyri’s against Malawi, which has been well covered by their colleagues (Boufal and Hakimi are Morocco’s two most prolific shot-takers at this tournament so far). Their two starting center-forwards for the last-16 match had combined for only nine shots in the competition, with less than half of those on target.
This brings me to the end of this article on AFCON 2021 Quarter-Final Predictions For All 4 Games.