By Ekema Njoku M.
The AFCON 2019 has demonstrated a change in football for Africa at the level of the round of 16, also known as the Knockout stage, as three of the most titled African nations, Egypt with 7titles, Cameroon with 5titles and Ghana with 4titles are licking their wounds after bowing out prematurely.
The first match of this knockout began with the Teranga Lions of Senegal who had a narrow edge over Uganda, defeating them 1-0. The shocker of the day was Benin who had not won any game in the competition and thus qualified as one of the best losers of the tourney. They proceeded to oust Herve Renard’s Morocco after post-match penalties, 4-1. After 120minutes of play it was 1-1. Morocco came into this game without losing a single game in the group stages and was tipped favourites for this encounter.
The second day of play saw the indomitable lions of Cameroon under the stewardship of Clarence Seedorf and his fellow countryman Patrick Kluivert clashing with the super eagles of Nigeria. Both sides are neighbouring countries and have met 16 times in the competition in the past and this made it 17th, with team Nigeria over-powering the 2017 champions, 3-2.
The super eagles were coming into this game from a shocking defeat in the hands of the competitions debutants, Madagascar, while the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon had lost no game and conceded no goal in the tournament.
Next to be kicked out were the pharaohs of Egypt. Holders of the AFCON trophy for a record 7times and host nation were stunned by 1996 champions Bafana Bafana of South Africa. The South African side came into this stage of the competition as one of the best losers and underdogs to face an Egyptian side that was still to lose a game and were playing in their own backyard.
The host nation, Egypt, was on a 100% streak and were seen as too powerful with the likes of Mohammed Salah, Trezeget, El Mohammady, Hegazi among many players who ply their trade in European clubs.
Two times champions, DR Congo, were next to be shown the door after a dramatic 120minutes of football with newcomers, Madagascar. The game ended 2-2 and had to be decided on penalties. This was a stage of the game pundits say “there is no perfect penalty taker”, this part of the game is more of luck. The central African side transformed just one of their spot kicks, while no-nonsense Madagascar converted four, (4-1).
The next North African side on stage was Algeria, playing against another best loser, Guinea; football lovers saw it as an easy ride for Riyad Mahrez and his teammates. The desert foxes trampled on the West Africans Guinea with the largest score margin of the round of 16 in this year’s AFCON 3-0.
The final day of matches for the round of 16 saw fellow West African nations, Ivory Coast and Mali clash, with the Elephants of Ivory Coast over-powering Mohammed Magasuba’s Malian side with a goal, courtesy of Crystal Palace’s sensation, Wilfred Zaha.
The second game was a classic clash between two African giants Tunisia, another North Africa team against the Black Stars of Ghana. It was so difficult to pinpoint or place a finger on who was going to carry the day. Tunisia opened scores and in the dying minutes of the game, an equaliser came in for Ghana courtesy a Tunisian own goal.
After 120 minutes, the goalkeepers were to make a name for themselves, and on this day, the shot-stopper for Tunisia was on hot red form as he saved one and his teammates calmly converted theirs. This created another record in a Tunisia-Ghana encounter in the AFCON, as it was the first time Tunisia ever triumphed over Tunisia.