2008 African Cup of Nations Quarterfinals Preview

While millions of millions of people will be watching the NFL’s Super Bowl today, the Super Bowl of African soccer has reached the quarterfinals, and as expected, host Ghana is alive, kicking, and ready to get their hands on the trophy.

But, there are seven other sides still in it, looking to pave their own way to the final and keep Ghana from the prize.

Below, I break down each of the four quarterfinal matchups, starting with the hosts going up against always-dangerous, but ever-unpredictable Nigeria.

Ghana vs. Nigeria

If the hosts were looking for a challenge on their way to an expected berth in the final, they’ll certainly have one on their hands.

Nigeria’s made at least the semifinals the last eight times they’ve played the competition (they didn’t play in 1996 [withdrew] or 1998 [banned]), so this one doesn’t shape up to be easy for Ghana in the least.

Well, that all depends on which Nigerian side they face. Will it be the Nigeria who didn’t play their best in a loss to the Ivory Coast and a draw against Mali, or the Nigeria from the second half of the Benin match, where they produced the goods for a victory that they needed to go through?

Ghana didn’t exactly look like a dominant force in the group stage, but wrapped up the three points in each tie to easily win Group A, and will, of course, be the favorites in this tie.

Each team’s Premiership stars came up big for them in group play. Harry Redknapp will hope that Sulley Muntari can find the net with regularity when he gets back from a trip home, as he has two goals to his name thus far, including the match-winner against Guinea.

For Nigeria, when they needed second-half goals against Benin to be able to go through, they came from John Obi Mikel (53) and Yakubu (86), to deliver a 2-0 win.

It could be that second-half performance might have been the turning point for Nigeria, and that they’ll go into the game against Ghana full of confidence.

Some Ghana fans are no doubt already making plans for the final, but after getting past this one (if they do), Cameroon potentially looms, and with Samuel Eto’o in fine form, it’s way too early to get those champion t-shirts printed yet.

Tunisia vs. Cameroon

Winning Group D might have almost been as much a punishment as it was a reward, as Tunisia’s ‘reward’ for topping Group D (on a tiebreaker over Angola) is a tie against the most prolific scoring side in the group stage.

Cameroon scored 9 goals in three matches (10 if you count a Sudan own goal), with five of those strikes coming from Samuel Eto’o, who broke the record for all-time goals scored in African Cup of Nations with his first of two goals against Sudan (he now has 16 in the competition in his career).

However, in their toughest match thus far, they fell 4-2 to Egypt, so it could be that they just took advantage of two markedly weaker opponents in Zambia and Sudan, or the defeat woke them up, and they’ll put their best feet forward against Tunisia.

As for Tunisia, they’re in the quarterfinals for the sixth time in the last seven competitions, and the 2004 champions will be looking for semifinal berth #4 in that span. They’re best suited to keeping Cameroon, and especially Eto’o, in check, because if it becomes a goalfest, Tunisia may not have the firepower to match.

However, Francileudo dos Santos (two goals against South Africa) is definitely a danger up front, and if the Tunisians can put some pressure on Cameroon’s defense, it certainly can be breached, as Egypt showed.

Egypt vs. Angola

The fact that Egypt so easily disposed of Cameroon in their opener, getting out to a 3-0 halftime lead on the way to a 4-2 victory, might be one of the more impressive results of the competition thus far, after Cameroon went and ran over Zambia and Sudan by a combined 8-1 scoreline.

The defending champions have thus far dispelled any questions as to if they’d miss the services of Mido, with midfielder Hosny scoring three times in three matches, and Mohamed Aboutreika and Mohamed Zidan scoring twice. While some may be licking their chops at the prospect of a Ghana-Ivory Coast final, the defending champions won’t be giving up their title without a fight, as shown by their performances up to this point.

Angola emerged from a deep Group D to finish runner-up, and can’t be taken lightly. The man to watch out for the Angolans is striker Manucho, and not just because of his new club affiliation, but because he produced three of Angola’s four goals in the group stage.

Egypt are fast starters, having scored goals inside the half-hour in each of their three group ties, so the Angola defense can’t still be stuck in warm-up mode in the early going.

Ivory Coast vs. Guinea

While Guinea will still be without their captain and star, Pascal Feindouno, who’ll be serving the second of his two-match ban (poor timing, Pascal), the Ivory Coast won’t be starved for scorers. The Ivorians scored eight goals in the first three games, with seven different scorers finding the net.

Do Guinea have a chance? While it would be easy to pencil the Ivory Coast into the semifinals right now, Guinea won’t go down without a fight.

They gave Ghana all they had and then some, and after all, they are in the quarterfinals, right? In fact, they’re in the quarters for the third straight time, and hey, you know what they say about the third time being the charm.

It’ll come down to resolute defending, which was an issue in the group stage. They allowed late goals in all three of their group matches, which cost them a draw against Ghana and a win against Namibia, and if they can’t stay sharp for 90 minutes against the Ivory Coast, they will be punished.


Ghana vs. Nigeria
Tunisia vs. Cameroon
Egypt vs. Angola
Ivory Coast vs. Guinea

For all of the fixtures and results, click here.

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