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Stories of AFCON: More drama as favourites flop and minnows move on

We’ve reached the last eight of the Africa Cup of Nations and the shock results continue, with a number of surprise names through to the quarter-finals.

We’ve reached the last eight of the Africa Cup of Nations and the shock results continue, with a number of surprise names through to the quarter-finals. 

The top two in the betting following the group stage – Senegal and Morocco – are out of the tournament, while the likes of Egypt and Cameroon are also heading home. 

Against the odds, Ivory Coast are still there while a number of smaller nations are threatening to cause a major shock by lifting the trophy.

Football

Managerless hosts could yet bring home joy

Despite winning just one of their opening three matches and finishing third in Group A, Ivory Coast find themselves in the quarter-finals of the tournament.

The country’s football bosses decided to sack coach Jean-Louis Gasset following their 4-0 thumping at the hands of Equatorial Guinea.

After results went their way, Ivory Coast later found out they had qualified for the knockout stages – appointing Emerse Fae as their caretaker manager.

The hosts looked to be heading out of the tournament again in the last-16, 1-0 down to Senegal with just four minutes of normal time left to play.

But a penalty from Franck Kessie levelled matters, before The Elephants went on to win the tie on penalties and send the home fans into raptures.

Ivory Coast – who are now 3/1 to lift the trophy – will face Mali in the quarters, after they defeated Burkina Faso in the last-16.

The head-to-head stats are in the hosts’ favour, with the Ivory Coast unbeaten in their last three meetings with Mali – two wins and one draw.

Nigeria head the outright market

After their win over Cameroon and defeats for Senegal and Morocco, Nigeria are now the favourites (15/8) to win the tournament.

The Super Eagles have lifted the trophy on three previous occasions and now Angola stand between them and the semi-finals.

Jose Peseiro’s men have gone under the radar a bit despite having not lost a game in the tournament. Nigeria finished second in Group A and have conceded just one goal in four matches.

They will face a tough test though against an Angola team that won Group D with seven points, before seeing off Namibia 3-0 in the last-16.

Gelson Dala, who plays his club football in Qatar, scored twice in that win and is joint-second in the Top Scorers charts, with four in the tournament.

Angola are the lowest ranked team left in the competition and are available at 20/1 in the Outright market.

Cape Verde remain unbeaten

In a tournament of shocks, the biggest surprise has arguably been the success of Cape Verde, who are now preparing for an AFCON quarter-final for only the second time.

The Blue Sharks, who have never qualified for a World Cup, have already beaten Ghana and drawn with Egypt in the last three weeks.

A 1-0 victory over Mauritania has set up a last-eight clash with South Africa, who are just seven places ahead of their opponents in the FIFA world rankings.

Bafana Bafana caused another tournament shock with their 2-0 last-16 success over Morocco, with an impressive defensive display catching the eye.

Morocco had 13 shots to South Africa’s five, but it was a third consecutive clean sheet for Hugo Broos’ squad – who are 11/1 to lift the trophy.

Cape Verde lead the way in the head-to-head stats – winning their last two meetings – although their last clash came back in 2017.

DR Congo continue to upset the odds

It’s bizarre to think that DR Congo have reached the quarter-finals of AFCON without winning a game in 90 minutes!

They drew all three of their group matches to qualify as runners-up in Group F, before then defeating Egypt on penalties in the last-16.

DR Congo’s three tournament goals have been scored by three different players, one of those being Brentford’s Yoane Wissa, who looks like being a key figure to their chances of going further.

The 1968 winners – 12/1 to win this year’s tournament - will now face Guinea in the quarter-finals, after Kaba Diawara’s squad saw off Equatorial Guinea with a dramatic stoppage-time winner.

Le Harve striker Mohamed Bayo has been one of their star players in this tournament, with the 25-year-old grabbing two goals to date, including that key goal in the last-16.

Stories of AFCON: Shocks lead to big-name exits and surprise packages

After one of the most fascinating group stages in AFCON history, we have a few unexpected last 16 matches to look forward to.

The likes of Ghana, Algeria and Tunisia have fallen by the wayside, while Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde and Angola have topped their groups and are threatening to go deep in the tournament.

We’ve also seen the hosts, Ivory Coast, sack their manager Jean-Louis Gasset despite scraping through to the knockout stages.

Football

Micha’s Equatorial Guinea impress

After being drawn in the same group as Nigeria and Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea’s target would have been to try and qualify, potentially as one of the best third-placed teams.

Instead, Juan Micha’s men were unbeaten in their three matches (two wins and one draw) and finished top of Group A – scoring nine goals along the way.

It’s fair to say there are not many household names or players that play for big European clubs in their squad, but the work ethic and team bond makes them a real threat.

Former Birmingham and Middlesbrough forward Emilio Nsue, their captain, is the tournament’s top scorer with five goals and can be backed at 4/11 to finish as the leading scorer.

In the last 16, Equatorial Guinea will face Guinea – who qualified after finishing third in Group C, which also included Senegal and Cameroon.

Former Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita skipper’s the team, while Stuttgart frontman Serhou Guirassy provides their goal threat.

But Equatorial Guinea will feel, after their first three performances, that they can reach the quarter-finals for the third time in their history and they are available at 3/1 to win their round of 16 tie inside 90 minutes.

Senegal still the team to beat

Whilst all the other big names struggled, Senegal made light work of their qualification after collecting three wins from three and topping Group C.

The defending champions – the only team with a 100% record in the group stage - have a squad that oozes quality and it’s going to be difficult for any team to dethrone them.

Aliou Cisse’s men will face hosts Ivory Coast in the last-16 and despite going up against the home advantage, the Lions of Teranga should have too much for their opponents.

With the likes of Sadio Mane, Nicolas Jackson, Ismaila Sarr and Iliman Ndiaye among their attacking options, it’s hard to see many teams being able to keep them out and Senegal can be backed at 3/1 to lift the trophy.

Ivory Coast could be a wounded animal, after their embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea, but it’s difficult to make a case for them knocking out the defending champions.

The 2015 winners have missed the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Maxwel Cornet, especially when you consider they scored just two goals in the group stage.

Cape Verde stun heavyweights

Despite being the smallest nation in the tournament, in terms of land size, Cape Verde topped Group B – finishing ahead of the likes of Egypt and Ghana.

Although they have just three players who play for clubs in Europe’s top-five leagues, the ‘Blue Sharks’ collected seven points and scored seven goals in their opening three games.

One interesting note, ahead of their last-16 clash with Mauritania, is that all the Cape Verde goals have been scored by different players.

Four of those strikes have come in the second half of their group matches and two in stoppage time at the end of games, highlighting their ability to battle it out to the end.

Cape Verde are 1/1 to beat Mauritania and can be backed to 22/1 to win the tournament, for what would be the first time in their history.

Morocco head the betting

After their impressive run to the World Cup semi-finals, it’s not a major surprise to see Morocco through to the knockout stages of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Their performances in the group were steady rather than outstanding, but Walid Regragui’s men are likely to get stronger going forward and are 11/4 to win the tournament.

It’s defensively where Morocco have impressed, conceding just one goal in their three Group F matches and looking a tough nut to crack.

A back four of PSG’s Achraf Hakimi, West Ham’s Nayef Aguerd, former Wolves man Romain Saiss and the experienced Mohamed Chibi has been very solid.

The Atlas Lions have, surprisingly, not lifted the trophy since 1976 and this looks like one of their best chances to end that wait. 

Regragui’s squad are 8/13 to see off South Africa in the last 16 and the draw looks favourable if they do progress to the last-eight.

Any odds displayed were correct at the time of writing and are subject to fluctuation.

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