AFCON focus: Predicting the quarter-finals

The African Cup of Nations has been thrilling so far and the best is yet to come. 

Senegal, the reigning champions, have been eliminated and massive nations like Ghana failed to make it out of the group stage.  

Alongside these giant-killings, some more unfancied countries, such as Cape Verde and Angola, have made it to the last eight. 

Ahead of the tantalising quarter-final fixtures, we’ve enlisted the help of Twenty3’s Toolbox to preview each knockout game.

Nigeria vs Angola

Angola have been one of the biggest surprise packages of the tournament. 

They are the lowest-ranked team left in AFCON but have scored the most goals in the tournament (nine). 

Interestingly, the Southern Africans have only accumulated 5.44 xG as a team, meaning they are massively overperforming in front of goal. 

Angola have had a favourable run, coming up against Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Namibia so far.

However, they are now up against the current favourites in Nigeria, following the exits of Morocco and Senegal. 

The Super Eagles eased past Cameroon in the previous stage, with Ademola Lookman scoring both goals.

This could prove to be a big ask for goal-hungry Angola, with Nigeria’s momentum building.

Cape Verde vs South Africa 

Both Cape Verde and South Africa have performed above expectations and the pitting of two dark horses always makes for an interesting spectacle.  

The Blue Sharks, only attending their fourth AFCON, were not predicted to make it out of the group but are on the brink of the last four. 

They will be looking at Ryan Mendes for some inspiration as the lively winger scored the all-important penalty last time out against Mauritania. 

South Africa are also on the verge of modern history —they haven’t made the semi-finals since 2000.

Bafana Bafana shocked pre-tournament favourites Morocco and, incredibly, have scored six times in their last three games without conceding a goal.

This game is a fascinating spectacle with a historic place in the last four awaiting the victors.

Mali vs Ivory Coast 

Ivory Coast have had a bizarre AFCON adventure. 

After a dismal 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea, the host nation sacked Jean-Louis Gasset but results went in their favour to secure a place in the knockout stages. 

Incredibly, the Ivorians then pulled off a stunning victory over Senegal in the last 16 after winning a penalty shootout.

Despite this growing momentum, Mali will be a very tough test. 

The Eagles have conceded just two goals all tournament and beat a lively Burkina Faso side in the last round. 

Sikou Niakate is at the heart of Mali’s stern defensive unit — the 24-year-old has completed the most ball recoveries in the entire tournament. 

Ivory Coast will have to show more creativity to break down Mali, given they have only scored two non-penalty goals in the tournament so far.

DR Congo vs Guinea

DR Congo have made it to the quarter-finals without winning a game in normal time, which raises questions about their chances of overcoming Guinea. 

However, the National Elephants also scraped through the group stage, finishing 3rd after losing to Senegal in the last game before the knockouts. 

Both sides definitely have room for improvement and DR Congo will look to Brentford’s Yoane Wissa to be the difference maker. 

The forward hasn’t scored since the opening game but he certainly has the quality to lead DR Congo to the last four.

Meanwhile, Guinea will be looking to their star striker, Mohamed Bayo, to come up with the goods.

The 25-year-old headed a dramatic 98th-minute winner against Equatorial Guinea in the last 16 to seal his team’s place in the quarter-final. 

All visualisations in this article were produced with the Twenty3 Toolbox. For more information, please get in touch below.