The quarterfinals are now set for AFCON 2017. And as usual with AFCON, there are plenty of upsets and plenty of favored teams have gone crashing out in the group stage. Hosts Gabon, BTH pick Algeria, and reigning champions Cote d’Ivoire all missed out on places in the quarterfinals while teams like Burkina Faso, Morocco, and Tunisia all surprised the pundits by advancing in their groups. Only in Group D did the “favorites” advance, with Egypt and Ghana both going on to the knockout rounds.
Group A featured what has to be the surprise team of the tournament so far, Burkina Faso winning the group over hosts Gabon and African powerhouse Cameroon. Hosts Gabon crashed out of the tournament with a nil-nil draw with Cameroon while Burkina Faso got past minnows Guinea-Bissau 2 goals to nil, with an own goal from Guinea-Bissau defender Rudinilson Silva and and a goal from Ajax’s Bertrand Traore, who is on loan from Chelsea, in the 57th minute. Burkina Faso was able to win the game despite Guinea-Bissau having nine corners and 18 shots compared with zero corners and seven shots for Burkina Faso. Gabon fans will have left the Gabon v Cameroon match with a bad taste in their mouths, as Dortmund star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed the goal from two yards out early in the game, and became only the 4th host that didn’t advance at least to the quarterfinals.
Group B featured Tunisia easing past Zimbabwe after the Zimbabwe keeper had a day to forget, allowing four goals from nine shots on target. Tunisia blasted past Zimbabwe despite only needed a draw to go through to the quarterfinals. Goals from Naim Sliti, Youssef Msakni, Taha Khenissi, and Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri. Zimbabwe hit back with goals from Knowledge Musona and Tendai Ndoro. The other match in the group featured one of the tournament favorites, Algeria go crashing out after drawing with Senegal. Algeria had to win the game and needed a win from Zimbabwe to advance, so the result of their game really didn’t end up mattering at all. Algeria had two goals from Leicester City’s Islam Slimani, but goals from Papa Kouly Diop and Moussa Sow for Senegal held Algeria to a draw. To add insult to injury for Algeria, Senegal had made 10 changes from the previous match, allowing the starters, such as West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyate, to rest with their ticket to the quarterfinals already punched.
Group C had another surprise result with Morocco overcoming Cote d’Ivoire thanks to a Rachid Alioui goal in the 64th minute. Cote d’Ivoire needed to win the match to advance, but rarely looked up for the match with a fairly uninspired performance. Morocco’s unexpected win helped them to advance along with DR Congo. Togo was no match for DR Congo who easily won the group with a 3-1 win. AFCON top scorer Junior Kabananga continued his dominant performance with a third goal in three games for DR Congo in the 29th minute. Also scoring for DR Congo were Paul-Jose M’Poku and Ndombe Mubele. Togo was able to get a goal back in the 69th minute from Fo-Doh Laba, but M’Poku’s strike in the 80th minute put the game away.
Group D was already pretty much settled before going in the last day of matches, with Egypt only needing a draw to go through to the quarterfinals and Ghana assured of a spot regardless of the results. Mali had needed to beat Uganda to have a chance at advancing along with some help, but were unable to get past Uganda. Farouk Miya scored the opening goal of the match for Uganda, but Mali were only able to draw level in the 73rd minute on a free-kick from Lille’s Yves Bissouma. Roma’s Mohammed Salah, a former Chelsea player, put Egypt in the lead for good in the 11th minute after scoring on a free kick. Ghana received some bad news when former Sunderland player and captain Asamoah Gyan came out of the game with an injury in the 40th minute that might result in him missing the rest of the tournament. Ghana will hope that Aston Villa’s Jordan Ayew, brother to West Ham’s Andre Ayew, will be able to fill in up from for the Black Stars.
The quarterfinals are to be played Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th, with Burkina Faso facing Tunisia in the first game on Saturday followed by Senegal taking on Cameroon in the second game. Sunday’s first game will feature DR Congo taking on Ghana and Egypt facing Morocco in the second game. With two of the surprise teams of the tournament facing each other in the quarterfinal, Burkina Faso and Tunisia, at least one semifinal will feature a team that was not predicted to advance. Will Burkina Faso’s magical run continue? Will Morocco shock seven time champion Egypt? Will West Ham’s Kouyate and Ayew both help their teams to victory? May the wacky, weird, wonderful world of AFCON surprise us all.