The Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt has reached the quarter-final stage and the first fixtures of the round are kicking off today.
West African giants Senegal who are still hunting for their first title in this tournament will be taking of Benin in the first match of the round.
Senegal beat Uganda to progress to this round while Benin shockingly eliminated North African giants Morocco on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time.
The second match will see three-time winners Nigeria taking on 1996 champions South Africa for a place in the semifinals.
The Super Eagles managed to eliminate their long-term rivals Cameroon who are the defending champions of the tournament with a 3-2 win. South Africa miraculously knocked out the hosts Egypt with a 1-0 victory thanks to Thembinkosi Lorch’s late goal.
Tomorrow the final set of the quarter-final fixtures will be played as 2015 champions Ivory Coast will be taking on Algeria in the first match and later newcomers Madagascar will face 2004 champions Tunisia.
Ivory Coast beat Mali 1-0 to progress to the quarter-final thanks to Wilfred Zaha’s second half late goal while Algeria stunned Guinea 3-0 in an easy win to progress.
The final fixture of the round will see newcomers and surprise package Madagascar who have already made history in the tournament taking on north African giants and 2004 winners Tunisia.
Madagascar defeated DR Congo 4-2 on penalties following a 2-2 draw after extra time to reach this stage while Tunisia also progressed on penalties defeating four-time winners Ghana 5-4 following a 1-1 draw after extra time.
After the quarterfinal games, the teams that will progress will play in the semifinals on Sunday, July 14 and this will be followed by the third place play-off match on Wednesday, July 17 and this will usher us into the final that will take place on Friday, July 19.
Introduction of VAR
Away from the matches, another exciting item fans will be excited to see in the quarterfinals is the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology at this round.
The technology was not used in the previous rounds of the tournament as it was scheduled to be introduced at the quarter-final stage according to the organizers.
The VAR technology is always used when referees need to take critical decisions in the game with incidents regarding whether a penalty should be given or not, fouls involving red cards, among others.
This is going to be the first time the technology is used in African football since its introduction.
Big name exits
The Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations is not progressing without any surprises as big-name teams have already suffered disappointing exits from the tournament.
Among the big names that have suffered elimination from the tournament include Morocco who suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of Benin. The north African giants missed a couple of chances to win the game including missing a penalty in extra time. They were consequently eliminated on penalties 4-1 by ten-man Benin.
Perhaps the most shocking and most disappointing exit was that of the hosts Egypt who suffered a shocking 1-0 defeat to South Africa at the round of 16 in front of their crowded fans.
The Pharaohs were regarded as the tournament’s favorites given that they were the hosts and the same time, the most successful nation in the history of the tournament having won the title seven times more than any other nation.
Cameroon the defending champions of the tournament also suffered elimination at the hands of their bitter rivals Nigeria following a 3-2 defeat.
The Indomitable Lions had gained some hope of qualification of after half time following their fightback to lead Nigeria 2-1 after coming from a goal down. However, the Super Eagles managed to restore their lead second half following goals from Odion Ighalo and Alex Iwobi.
Ghana were the other big name nation to suffer a shocking early exit after losing 5-4 on penalties to Tunisia.