Africa: More Shocks Could Be On the Cards in Quarterfinals

Many fancied contenders have tumbled out of the Africa Cup of Nations early and there is every chance of further upsets in the weekend’s quarterfinals, where hosts Ivory Coast will hope to continue their unlikely redemption.

Several past winners remain in contention, but the field has been decimated by a steady procession of heavyweight sides exiting the tournament in a series of shocks that have made the event a riveting spectacle.

The Ivorians suffered the heaviest defeat ever inflicted on a host team in finals history when Equatorial Guinea beat them 4-0 in Abidjan in their last group game and they had to wait three days before knowing they would advance as the last of the best third-placed finishers.

But they bounced back to edge past holders Senegal on penalties in a dramatic last-16 tie and now go up against neighbours Mali in a derby clash in Bouake on Saturday, with expectation suddenly back among their supporters.

The Ivory Coast are one of four previous winners left in the tournament, along with the Democratic Republic of Congo, who were still known as Zaire when they last won 50 years ago, while South Africa had their sole success in 1996.

DR Congo will also be far from confident of success when they meet Guinea in Abidjan later the same day and South Africa will be wary of the Cape Verde Islands, who have already been giant-killers at the tournament, beating Ghana in the group phase.

Cape Verde are the smallest country in the 24-team field, with a population of around 600 000, but never looked out of place in their fourth tournament appearance. They take on South Africa in Yamoussoukro on Saturday.

None of the eight quarterfinalists from the last edition in Cameroon two years ago have made the last eight this time, nor have any of the five countries who represented Africa at the last World Cup in Qatar.

That, however, reflects the vagaries of tournament competition more than a significant shift in the balance of footballing power on the continent.

The weekend winners advance to the semi-finals next Wednesday with the final in Abidjan on February 11.

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