AFCON matchday preview: Revenge on the cards as giants collide

By Sports Desk January 25, 2022

Ivory Coast and Egypt will contest arguably the tie of the round on Wednesday as the two giants hope to book their passage to the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Carlos Queiroz's Pharaohs failed to impress during the group stage, ultimately reaching the knockouts thanks to 1-0 wins over Guinea-Bissau and Sudan, teams many would expect them to beat comfortably.

They got the job done but now come up against one of the more eye-catching teams from the first round in Ivory Coast, who rounded off the group stage with a 3-1 win over defending champions Algeria.

In Wednesday's other last-16 contest, and the final game of the round, surprise package Equatorial Guinea will hope to continue their promising campaign against Mali, who will be firm favourites.

Ivory Coast v Egypt (16:00 GMT)

Mohamed Salah and Egypt have struggled to rise to the occasion so far in Cameroon – if they cannot get themselves up for this, they will surely be heading home.

This will be the 11th AFCON meeting between these two sides, making it the competition's most-played fixture, and Egypt boast a good record against the Elephants in knockout games.

Ivory Coast have not been successful in any of the previous four elimination clashes – the two most recent were in the 2006 final when Egypt won on penalties, and the semi-final two years later as they ran out 4-1 winners.

As such, Ivory Coast will surely feel they have a score to settle, and Egypt's record of losing each of their past two AFCON knockout matches should give them some optimism.

One to watch: Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast)

He may be struggling to get a look-in at club level with Arsenal, but Pepe is undoubtedly key for the Elephants. Only Algeria's Youcef Belaili (24) was directly involved in more shots than him in the group stage (19 – 12 shots, seven chances created), while the former Lille winger has been directly involved in more goals than any other Ivory Coast player in the tournament so far (three – two goals, one assist).

 

Mali v Equatorial Guinea (19:00)

Mali may have come through the group stage unbeaten, but Equatorial Guinea will not be writing themselves off producing a shock here.

After all, Les Aigles have had to largely rely on penalties to get their goals, highlighting that their route to this stage has not been entirely emphatic, while Equatorial Guinea have overcome greater odds.

In their previous four AFCON knockout games, they have progressed twice – both of those came in 2015, when they caused upsets by getting past Tunisia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This edition of the tournament has seen its fair share of shocks already. Could Mali be the latest to be guilty of complacency?

One to watch: Adama Noss Traore (Mali)

As mentioned, Mali have almost entirely got by on penalties, with three of their four goals coming via Ibrahima Kone's spot-kicks. That meant they scored just once from 27 open play shots in the group stage, yet their non-penalty expected goals (xG) of 3.6 suggests chance creation was not the issue. Traore was their most effective player in that respect with his set-piece deliveries, tallying a squad-high key passes.

 

Related items

  • Eve eager to see overseas-based players in action against Jamaica; expected to select squad for Canada fixture after friendlies Eve eager to see overseas-based players in action against Jamaica; expected to select squad for Canada fixture after friendlies

    Trinidad and Tobago's Head coach Angus Eve has included two new overseas-based players in a 26-member squad to face Jamaica in a two-match friendly series this weekend.

    The two games to be held Friday and Sunday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo, and the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar, are being used to help Eve finalise his Soca Warriors squad for the Copa America playoff against Canada, on March 23, while the Jamaicans are also in preparation mode of their Concacaf Nations League semi-final clash with United States, scheduled for March 21.

    Kick off for the friendly encounters are scheduled for 3:00pm and 4:00pm Trinidad and Tobago time.

    Canadian League One midfielder Kai Garvey (Simcoe County Rovers FC) and English League Two forward Justin Obikwu (Coventry City), are the overseas-based players called up by Eve, with Jamaica-based forward Nathaniel James, midfielder Kaile Auvray (both of Mount Pleasant) and defender Josiah Trimmingham (Montego Bay Utd), also included.

    Also breaking into the senior team is in-form Under-20 forward Michael Chaves (QPCC), who just concluded their Concacaf Championship campaign on Tuesday.

    Uncapped players such as Shervohnez Hamilton (Club Sando), Rhondel Gibson (Eagles FC), Liam Burns (AC Port of Spain) and Kai Moos (Club Sando) were also selected.

    The remaining players all hail from the Trinidad and Tobago Premier Football League (TTPFL) tier one and includes regulars such as Duane Muckette, John-Paul Rochford, Nathaniel Garcia, Michel Poon Angeron, Denzil Smith and Christopher Bigette among others.

    Eve is expecting players to give of their best, especially with spots on the line for the Copa America playoff.

    “We had a mini camp over the Carnival period where we saw some new players and we wanted to see them in a real match environment, and now this is an opportunity for them to get proper match practice so we could see them play. We have some new players. Unfortunately, some of them got injured in the last couple games in the TTPFL matches so they’re not here right now," Eve shared.

    The Soca Warriors play Canada on March 23, at the Toyota Stadium in Texas, with the winner to progress to Copa America Group A, alongside FIFA World Cup champions Argentina, two-time champions Peru and Chile.

    Eve expressed pleasure with the continued expansion of his talent pool continues to grow. He also expressed gratitude to former national coaches Dennis Lawrence and Stephen Hart for their role in getting Obikwu and Garvey on board.

    “When these types of coaches recommend people, you must take a look at them. We’ve seen tapes of them, and this is our opportunity to see them live,” said Eve.

    Meanwhile, Friday’s game will be closed to fans due to a setup being done at the venue for Carifta trials this weekend. However, spectators can view Sunday’s match at Larry Gomes Stadium at a cost of $50.

    Both Games can be seen on SportsMax and SportsMax 2.

    Trinidad and Tobago Squad -Denzil Smith (Club Sando), Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Christopher Biggette (Defence Force), Alvin Jones (Police FC), Jamal Jack (Club Sando), Justin Garcia (Defence Force), Robert Primus (Police FC), Josiah Trimmingham (Montego Bay FC), Shervohnez Hamilton (Club Sando), Ross Russell Jr (La Horquetta Rangers), Duane Muckette (AC PoS), John-Paul Rochford (ACPoS), Justin Sadoo (Defence Force), Kaile Auvrau (Mount Pleasant), Kai Moos (Club Sando), Kevon Goddard (Defence Force), Liam Burns (AC PoS), Nathaniel Garcia (Defence Force), Michel Poon Angeron (AC PoS), Kai Garvey (Simcoe County Rovers), Rhondel Gibson (Club Sando), Kaihim Thomas (Defence Force), Nathaniel James (Mount Pleasant), Jem Gordon (1976 Phoenix FC), Justin Obikwu (Coventry City), Michael Chaves (QPCC)

  • Stefano Pioli urging Milan to be more ruthless as they chase second-placed Juve Stefano Pioli urging Milan to be more ruthless as they chase second-placed Juve

    Stefano Pioli called for his AC Milan side to be more “cynical” in front of goal ahead of their Serie A trip to Lazio as they look to turn the heat up on second-placed Juventus.

    Milan were held to a 1-1 home draw by Atalanta in their last fixture – having lost to Monza and Rennes in their previous two matches – leaving them four points behind Juve in the Serie A standings and just five ahead of in-form Bologna in fourth pace.

    The Rossoneri will now be eager to get back to winning ways against Lazio on Friday and coach Pioli wants his side’s performance to be consistent, calling for additional cutting edge up front.

    “We want to produce the same performance as last week whilst aiming for a different result,” Pioli said on his club’s website.

    “We analysed the positives after Atalanta but also tried to understand why we couldn’t score one more than them because we had the chance to. We need to be more cynical”.

    Lazio have lost three of their last five Serie A matches, winning the other two, and will also be keen to get back on track after surrendering a half-time lead to lose 2-1 at Fiorentina last time out.

    That was the second time in three matches Lazio have ended up empty-handing after taking the lead, and left them eighth in the table, eight points off the top four.

    Pioli believes Maurizio Sarri’s “motivated” team will bring the fight to them at the Stadio Olimpico, where Lazio are playing only their second home match in six league outings.

    Pioli also ruled out resting any of his players ahead of next week’s Europa League last-16 first leg at home to Sparta Prague.

    “They (Lazio) are a team with great quality that comes off the back of an unsatisfactory performance,” said Pioli.

    “They will be motivated but can also be thrown off by playing with intensity. The game against Slavia Prague will be very important, we are studying them but are fully focused on Lazio.

    “Then we will have an almost full week, there won’t be changes in Rome in order to rest players. I believe that both sides will try to play with different ideas. The midfield battles will be very important”.

    While Milan will still hold hope of overhauling Juve in second spot, Pioli concedes that city rivals Inter are unlikely to be caught by any team.

    Runaway leaders Inter sit 12 points at the top of the table having won 22 of their 26 matches this season, losing just once and conceding only 12 goals.

    Pioli said: “I think that the top spot in the league is decided, Inter are recording incredible numbers as Napoli did last year.

    “April 21 (Milan derby) is too far away. We have a big game ahead of us and there are various goals to meet before we think about the derby.”

  • Luis Enrique says Paris St Germain can be stronger for Kylian Mbappe departure Luis Enrique says Paris St Germain can be stronger for Kylian Mbappe departure

    Paris St Germain coach Luis Enrique insists they will have a better team next season even after the expected departure of star forward Kylian Mbappe.

    It is understood the 25-year-old France international, whose contract expires at the end of the season, has told the club he wants to join Real Madrid this summer, a move which has been touted for a number of years.

    “It doesn’t cross my mind that the team will be weaker next season. I’m absolutely sure,” Enrique told a press conference ahead of Friday’s match against Mbappe’s former club Monaco.

    “If everything goes well, I think and I’m convinced that we’ll have a better team next season.

    “Me, I always want to try to improve the team and I think there is always a way to improve.”

    PSG, who have an 11-point advantage at the top over Brest, have lost just once in Ligue 1 this season – back in September and are on course for a 10th title in the last 12 years.

    “I am very happy with all the efforts we made, with the results we obtained,” added Enrique.

    “We are following a very good trajectory. Now we are entering a difficult period, the key period, the best of the season.

    “It’s all or nothing, and it’s a feeling we love. We have to continue to be true to our idea, to what got us here, to try to dominate the matches from the start.

    “We don’t need to improve the general idea, but we need to improve the details.”

    While Monaco are currently third they are 13 points behind and have lost six times this season, including four at home.

    “Monaco are one of the best teams in the league and a direct competitor of ours in the title race,” said the PSG boss.

    “We know that we’ve got a tough game ahead of us tomorrow, so we’ll put out a highly competitive side.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.