The conclusion of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations is on the horizon, with the first quarter-finals to be played on Saturday. Hosts Cameroon will be eager to win their sixth title, and first on home soil. However, the competition is stiff and the road to glory, if they get there, won’t be easy. Let’s examine who could make it to the semi-finals at the AFCON 2021.
AFCON 2021 Quarter-Final Predictions
The End of Gambia’s Cinderella Run
Hosts Cameroon won their group with seven points, despite a couple of underwhelming performances. This persisted in the round of 16, where they narrowly defeated a ten-man Comoros side. Suprise package Gambia also managed to obtain seven points, most notably drawing with Mali and unexpectedly beating Tunisia, who in turn triumphed over Nigeria in the first knockout round. This quarter-final tie is somewhat of a toss-up, but Cameroon’s home advantage and slightly superior squad give them a marginal edge over the Gambia.
Final prediction: Gambia 0-1 Cameroon
Tunisia Seem to Have Found Their Form
Burkina Faso finished second in their group and only narrowly lost against hosts Cameroon, courtesy of two penalty kicks awarded in rapid succession. They subsequently picked up a solid win against Cape Verde and drew with Ethiopia. A penalty shootout win against Gabon in the last 16 earned Burkina Faso their place in the quarter-finals. Tunisia were lacklustre in the group stage, losing to Mali and Gambia but advancing as one of the best third-placed teams because of their 4-0 demolition of Mauretania, the biggest win at the AFCON 2021.
The Eagles of Carthage found additional redemption in the round of 16, where they unexpectedly defeated a Nigerian side that had been flawless thus far. Also, their subpar group stage performance can be attributed to the format, where three points with a positive goal difference essentially guarantee a spot in the knockout stage. The point here is that Tunisia shouldn’t be judged too harshly on their group stage display, since their triumph against Nigeria indicates that they’re getting their act together for the knockout ties. This notion is further supported by their showing at the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup, where they defeated Oman and Egypt during the latter stages. Burkina Faso are solid and this match will likely go down to the wire, but a Tunisian win is more probable than the alternative.
Final prediction: Burkina Faso 1-1 (p) Tunisia
Morocco to the Semi-Finals for the First Time Since 2004
Egypt and Morocco could’ve just as well made up the final, yet they’re forced to clash in the last eight. The Pharaohs twice won with a single goal against unfavored sides and lost to Nigeria. However, they ultimately beat the Ivory Coast in the last 16 and thus deserve to be in the quarter-finals. Morocco defeated Ghana and the resolute debutants Comoros, but dropped points against Gabon. That’s an acceptable slip-up, though, as they ultimately won the group regardless.
In the round of 16, The Atlas Lions came back to beat Malawi 2-1. Egypt and Morocco are so evenly matched that one must really look around to distinguish them. At the 2021 Arab Cup, Egypt made it to the semi-finals while Morocco succumbed in the last eight. However, The Pharaohs faced easier opposition in Jordan and even needed extra time to beat them. The Atlas Lions narrowly lost on penalties to eventual champions Algeria. Morocco’s marginally superior Elo rating serves as an additional tiebreaker.
Final prediction: Egypt 0-1 (a.e.t.) Morocco
Senegal Knockout Stage Experience Potentially Game-Winning at the AFCON 2021
Senegal unimpressively won their group, scoring just one goal, which was a last-minute penalty. They subsequently won 2-0 against a Cape Verde that went down to ten and later nine men. However, at the end of the day, they are undefeated. Equatorial Guinea have emerged as a giant killer after their wins against Algeria (and Sierra Leone) and Mali on penalties. This will be a close encounter. Senegal are more likely to win it, though, despite their unassuming performances. Their superior squad and more recent experience at the knockout phases of tournaments give them a marginal edge, even though Equatorial Guinea also stands a chance.
Final prediction: Senegal (a.e.t.) 1-0 Equatorial Guinea