AFCON matchday preview: Mouthwatering clash between Salah and Hakimi awaits

By Sports Desk January 29, 2022

The Africa Cup of Nations is heating up in the quarter-final stage, with Sunday's encounters two of the more fascinating of the round on paper.

After edging past the Ivory Coast in the round of 16 on penalties, Egypt take on Morocco where two stars of world football, Mohamed Salah and Achraf Hakimi, go head-to-head.

Senegal will play Equatorial Guinea for just the second time at the AFCON, with the latter winning the previous such game 2-1 in the group stages in 2012.

Stats Perform takes a look at both games as we get closer to the business end of this year's tournament.

 

Egypt v Morocco (15:00 GMT)

This will be the seventh AFCON encounter between these teams, with Morocco winning three of the previous six (D1 L2), although Egypt won the most recent encounter in the 2017 quarter-finals.

The Pharaohs have won each of their past four quarter-final matches at the AFCON, having progressed in just one of their previous five.

Morocco have won six of their past eight matches in this competition (D2), scoring in every game in this run, although they are looking to reach the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since finishing runners-up to Tunisia in 2004.

There have been a number of tight games at this year's tournament and that may be the case again here. Egypt have only conceded seven goals in their 20 games at the AFCON since 2010 (W14 D3 L3), keeping 14 clean sheets.

Morocco's Romain Saiss has accumulated an expected goals (xG) tally of 1.99 from his five attempts in the competition, the highest xG of any player who is yet to score this year.

One to watch: Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)

The Paris Saint-Germain right-back had been having a relatively quiet AFCON up until the knockout stages, only to put in a top-quality performance to help his nation topple Malawi in the round of 16.

His excellent free-kick in the 2-1 win was just one of his five attempts at goal, four of which were on target. Hakimi had only taken three shots in total in his three group stage appearances. His partnership with Imran Louza – who made five key passes against Malawi, more than anyone else – on the right could be vital, with Salah likely occupying their team-mates on the other side.

 

Senegal v Equatorial Guinea (19:00 GMT)

It was a horrible sight to see Sadio Mane crash to the floor after a head collision with Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha in their round-of-16 tie, despite picking himself up to score the winner moments later.

Whether the Liverpool man is fit to play remains to be seen, but it could be crucial as he has scored 44 per cent of Senegal's goals (seven of 16, excluding own goals) at the AFCON since 2017, while none of his team-mates have scored more than once in this time.

Senegal have progressed from three of their past five quarter-final matches at the AFCON, while they are looking to reach the semi-finals in consecutive tournaments for the first time.

Equatorial Guinea have lost just one of their most recent five AFCON games (W2 D2), keeping four clean sheets and conceding just once.

Since the start of the 2017 tournament, Senegal have won more games (nine) and kept more clean sheets (12) than any other team.

One to watch: Saul Coco (Equatorial Guinea)

The Las Palmas defender was a rock at the back for his country in the round-of-16 clash with Mali, making seven clearances, more than twice as many as any of his team-mates, as well as three blocks. He also scored his penalty in the shoot-out and may need that calm temperament when facing Senegal's pacey attack.

He is also part of an Equatorial Guinea defence that has conceded just once in the tournament, despite facing an overall xG of 4.2.

 

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