Mouth-wa­ter­ing Af­con KO clashes

Bat­tle to con­quer the con­ti­nent goes into top gear as teams eye semis spots

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NJAB­ULO NGIDI

MAIN MAN: Sa­dio Mane of Sene­gal will be the player to watch when the Teranga Li­ons take on Cameroon to­mor­row.

THERE WILL be new Africa Cup of Nations cham­pi­ons crowned at Stade de l’Ami­tie in Li­bre­ville on Fe­bru­ary 5 af­ter Ivory Coast were bun­dled out of the group stage. The man who guided the Ele­phants to that suc­cess in 2015, Herve Re­nard, de­nied the Ivo­rians pas­sage to the last eight with his new team Morocco.

The French coach is look­ing to win his third Af­con with dif­fer­ent nations hav­ing lifted this tro­phy for the first time with Zam­bia five years ago. But Re­nard and the At­las Li­ons have to first go past seven-time African cham­pi­ons Egypt in a north African derby that’s the pick of the quar­ter­fi­nals.

To­mor­row: Burk­ina Faso v Tu­nisia @ Stade de l’Ami­tie, 6pm

The Stal­lions topped Group A, ahead of hosts Gabon and four-time African cham­pi­ons Cameroon, with­out their tal­is­man Jonathan Pitroipa and Jonathan Zongo. Both have been ruled out of the tour­na­ment. But that hasn’t stopped the Burk­in­abe reach­ing the last eight to set-up a meet­ing with Tu­nisia. Pre­juce Nak­oulma, who re­placed Pitroipa, has been sublime. Nak­oulma scored af­ter com­ing on for Pitroipa against Gabon and set up Ber­trand Traore in the 2-0 win over Guinea-Bis­sau.

The Tu­nisians can count on Youssef Msakni for in­spi­ra­tion. The Qatar-based mid­fielder de­stroyed Zim­babwe with his slick touches and skills. Msakni is the heart­beat of the pow­er­ful at­tack the Carthage Ea­gles boast.

To­mor­row: Sene­gal v Cameroon @ Stade de Franceville, 9pm

It feels like 2002 all over again for the Li­ons of Teranga. Aliou Cisse (then cap­tain) is once again lead­ing a tal­ented group. Tony Sylva (goal­keeper) and Omar Daf (de­fender) are there to tighten things up at the back while a blond ge­nius leads the at­tack.

But this time around, Cisse (as the coach), Sylva (goal­keeper coach) and Daf (as­sis­tant coach) make up the tech­ni­cal staff in­stead of play­ing while that tal­ented ge­nius, Sa­dio Mane, has a touch of blond in his hair un­like ElHadji Diouf who had it all over his head. Sene­gal’s party in 2002 was crashed by Cameroon in the fi­nal of the Af­con. They have a chance to make up for that, start­ing tonight against the In­domitable Li­ons.

Sun­day: Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo v Ghana @ Stade d’Oyem, 6pm

The Black Stars coach Avram Grant might have his lucky beard but Florent Ibenge is DRC’s source of in­spi­ra­tion and man­u­fac­turer of their luck. Ibenge is look­ing to im­prove on the third-place fin­ish he guided the Leop­ards to in the last edi­tion. That run came just af­ter he had taken DRC side AS Vita to sec­ond place in the CAF Cham­pi­ons League. Last year he took the home­based Ele­phants to first-place in the African Nations Cham­pi­onship. Hav­ing pow­ered their way to the last eight, the DRC could sur­prise the con­ti­nent and win the main prize.

Grant has ditched his lucky blue T-shirt. Ghana didn’t lose a match in reg­u­la­tion time when he wore it at the last Af­con. As for his lucky beard, his daugh­ter said it will help him win the Af­con if he doesn’t shave it. Apart from the beard, Ghana have an ex­pe­ri­enced squad that has shown flex­i­bil­ity and abil­ity to grind re­sults.

Sun­day: Egypt v Morocco @ Stade de Port-Gentil, 9pm

The first north Africa derby of this tour­na­ment, be­tween Tu­nisia and Al­ge­ria, pro­duced fire­works in the group stage. The sec­ond will take it up a notch with a spot in the last four. The Pharaohs’ pas­sage to the last eight was an emo­tional triumph. It came ex­actly six years to the day Egypt was hit by the Arab Spring that led to the over­throw of Hosni Mubarak. That tur­moil also hit the na­tional team who missed the last three edi­tions. A solid de­fence, that is yet to be breached, has been the Pharaohs’ foun­da­tion with 44-year-old Es­sam El-Hadary an im­preg­nable fortress be­tween the sticks.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.