The reliable bookmaker 1xBet announces the playoffs' next-round matches, which will be held on February 2 and 3.
Nigeria v Angola
The Nigerian national team confidently reached the AFCON quarter-finals and looks like a squad capable of improving but has not yet shown everything they can do. We also think the Super Eagles are flying high enough to see their first league title since 2013 on the horizon.
The Nigerians’ main trump card is a reliable defense. Jose Peseiro built it so well that opponents can only see Stanley Nwabili's goal from afar. At the current Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria conceded only 1 ball in 4 matches. These figures are impressive and align with the statistic that the Super Eagles' opponents have an xG of a modest 1.3. In other words, the Nigerians reduced the number of scoring chances near their goal to a minimum and did not even allow the Cameroonians to hit the target.
At the same time, Nigeria scored 5 goals in 4 games, but they cannot be accused of being too pragmatic in their playing style. The Nigerian national team leads in the number of scoring chances created at the tournament but has problems with realization. Only Ademola Lookman, who made a double in the 1/8 match against Cameroon, managed to have more than 1 goal in this year's AFCON. Victor Osimhen has 1 goal and 2 assists - each of his effective actions benefited the squad; still, the Super Eagles’ attack leader should score more often.
The Angola team reached the quarterfinals for the 3rd time in its history with the same results as Nigeria - 3 wins and 1 draw. The Black Antelopes concede more than the Super Eagles (3 goals against 1) but can boast 2 clean sheets. However, in attack, the Angolans are much more effective - they scored 9 goals, although the star forward, by this team's standards, M’Bala Nzola from Fiorentina, did not go to the tournament. The Nigerian manager will have to think about how to stop Gelson Dala (4 goals and 1 assist) and Mabululu (3 goals).
Pedro Gonçalves has turned Angola into a disciplined squad that understands their coach's ideas and wants to reach the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals for the first time.
DR Congo v Guinea
The DR Congo squad made it to the quarterfinals without a win, but this result cannot be called an unfair anomaly. The Leopards show high-quality football and rightly claim the first medals since 2015 and even the first champion title from immemorial 1974.
DR Congo failed to beat Zambia and Tanzania, but those matches can be considered as draws in terms of strength. A draw with the powerful Moroccan team became a very worthy result. In the 1/8 final game against Egypt, the Leopards played no worse than their opponents and pulled out their lucky ticket in the penalty shootout.
On the way to the quarterfinals, the Guinea team had two victories but suffered one defeat and is unlikely to surpass DR Congo in the level of play. It's hard to deny that Syli National also had some luck. In the 1/8 finals match against Equatorial Guinea, Kaba Diawara's squad was fortunate with the opponent being sent off and a missed penalty (the tournament's top scorer, Emilio Nsue, failed), and the only winning goal appeared in the last seconds of regular time.
The Guinea national team has obvious room for progress, but there are no guarantees that these trump cards will play. We are talking about not the best playing conditions of Naby Keїta and Serhou Guirassy. Guinea's star players receive little playing time due to injury and lack much impact. However, if the squad leaders are in good shape, Guinea will have a chance to win an AFCON medal for the first time since 1976.
Mali v Côte d'Ivoire
The Mali national team won bronze medals in 2013, and after that, for 11 years, they could not break into the Africa Cup of Nations top 8. The Eagles' protracted series of failures was interrupted by Eric Schelle, who, ironically, was born in Cote d'Ivoire.
The Malians spent the entire tournament in the shadow of the main favorites, but it worked to their advantage. The team won 2 matches, never lost, scored 5 goals, and conceded only 2. The Eagles surprised by defeating Burkina Faso in the ⅛ game without Yves Bissouma from Tottenham. Forward Lassine Sinayoko from French Auxerre stands out in the Mali squad, scoring 3 goals.
Cote d'Ivoire's path to the quarter-finals resembles a phoenix rising from the ashes. In the group, the tournament hosts beat only the obvious outsider Guinea-Bissau, and on the other side of the scale were two defeats. Only on the group stage's last day Côte d'Ivoire learned that they had made it to the playoffs and, with a new manager, began to prepare for the struggle with Senegal. The local federation was sure to fire Jean-Louis Gasset (he was not forgiven for the defeat by Equatorial Guinea) but could not agree with the legendary Hervé Renard, who led the Elephants to the Africa Cup of Nations gold in 2015.
As a result, the team was headed by Emerse Fae, who managed to unite the squad and began his coaching career with outstanding success. In the 1/8, they knocked out Senegal - the champion and No. 1 favorite! Yes, it happened in a penalty shootout, but that doesn’t make it any easier for Senegal. Today, the hosts are ready to make it to at least the AFCON semi-finals after a 9-year break.
The personal meeting results with a new opponent add confidence: the Elephants have 4 wins and 1 draw in 5 matches against Mali at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Cape Verde v South Africa
Cape Verde has already repeated the national record at the Africa Cup of Nations and is ready to advance beyond the quarter-finals. The Blue Sharks won 3 out of 4 matches and only drew against Egypt when coach Bubista made a rotation. The saved energy could be the deciding factor in Cape Verde's favor in the 1/4. Also, for the Blue Sharks, any player can become a scorer - at the current tournament, 7 different players brought goals for this squad.
South Africa lost to Mali in the 1st round, after which it became almost an ideal team - in the next 3 games, Bafana Bafana had 2 victories and never conceded. South African coach Hugo Broos, in 2017, won the AFCON, leading the Cameroon national squad, and knows what a big title is. However, the Belgian manager will probably remember Tuesday’s victory over Morocco (2-0) in the 1/8 finals as one of the greatest achievements in his career - it’s not every day that you beat the world’s fourth-ranked team in a match of this level. Luck was on South Africa's side when Achraf Hakimi missed a penalty, but Bafana Bafana played exemplary defense for most of the game and counter-attacked well.
South Africans have not won the AFCON medal since 2000. In those days, the national squad was very strong, but today, they have very few foreign players from Europe and no players from top championships at all. Lack of skills and fatigue after the struggle with Morocco could be South Africa's main problems in the quarter-finals against Cape Verde.