A tight bat­tle for quar­ter­fi­nal spots

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NJAB­ULO NGIDI

GROUP A con­cluded its busi­ness last night in Gabon’s cap­i­tal Libreville. The top two teams in this group joined Ghana and Senegal who had al­ready booked their places in the quar­ter-fi­nals. Tonight un­til Wed­nes­day four more na­tions will join the quar­tet to make up the last eight. Group B: Senegal v Al­ge­ria @ Stade de Franceville and Zim­babwe v Tu­nisia @ Stade de l’Ami­tie, both tonight at 9pm

The Lions of Teranga are al­ready guar­an­teed a first place fin­ish even if they lose to Al­ge­ria and the Tu­nisians beat Zim­babwe. Senegal will still fin­ish on top be­cause of a bet­ter head-to-head with the Carthage Ea­gles. It’s a fit­ting po­si­tion for Senegal be­cause they’ve not only been the best team in Group B but also the best in the tour­na­ment so far.

The same can’t be said for Al­ge­ria who are fac­ing an em­bar­rass­ingly early elim­i­na­tion de­spite boast­ing a strong team that saw them tipped as the tour­na­ment’s favourites. The Desert Foxes have picked up a measly point, which they were lucky to get, from Zim­babwe. Their stars – Riyad Mahrez, Yacine Brahini and Is­lam Sli­mani – have tried to in­spire Al­ge­ria to suc­cess but they have lacked po­tency. Their prob­lem has been that they re­act in­stead of be­ing proac­tive. Be­ing put in this cor­ner could count in their favour be­cause they need a mas­sive re­ac­tion. Tu­nisia’s clash with Zim­babwe could be a straight shoot-out of who will join Senegal in the last eight. Group C: Morocco v Ivory Coast @ Stade d’Oyem and Togo v Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo (DRC) @ Stade de Port-Gen­til, both to­mor­row at 9pm

Of all the groups, this is the most open be­cause all four teams can still qual­ify for the last eight.

Morocco’s clash with Ivory Coast will be an emo­tional mo­ment for Herve Re­nard. It will see the coach come up against the team he guided to con­ti­nen­tal suc­cess in 2015, in his new role with a sleep­ing gi­ant that is Morocco.

The At­las Lions started this tour­na­ment on a shaky note, los­ing to DRC. They woke up, dusted them­selves up and con­vinc­ingly beat Togo to sit in sec­ond place, a point be­hind the Leop­ards.

Re­nard’s men­tor, Claude le Roy, will be in­volved in his own emo­tional match. He will lead Togo against the only team, DRC, he failed to take to the last eight of this tour­na­ment. The vet­eran coach of nine Af­cons is a shrewd tac­ti­cian who has a way of mak­ing teams punch above their weight. Group D: Egypt v Ghana @ Stade de Port-Gen­til and Uganda v Mali @ Stade d’Oyem, both on Wed­nes­day at 9pm

The Black Stars have al­ready booked a place in the last eight while Uganda will re­turn home af­ter Wed­nes­day. That leaves Egypt and Mali bat­tling to join Ghana in the knock­out stage. Even though the Pharaohs and the Ea­gles play against coun­tries that al­ready know their fates, they will have to put on a strong fight to beat them.

Ghana are look­ing to fin­ish the tour­na­ment with a 100 per­cent record.

Uganda want to re­turn home with some­thing to show, es­pe­cially hav­ing made Ugan­dans wait close to 40 years to watch the Cranes in the con­ti­nen­tal show­piece.

Mali will wel­come the change of venues. They’ll be able to play their flow­ing brand of foot­ball in Oyem with­out be­ing lim­ited by a poor pitch.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.