Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Power Ranking all eight quarter-finalists

1:41 PM GMT 28/01/2022
CAN 2022 - Quarts de finale - Aboubakar - Salah Mané Hakimi
It’s an open field for the quarter-finals of the Nations Cup, but who are the contenders and the pretenders?

  • Equatorial Guinea

    Equatorial Guinea

    Their performance in this competition shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has witnessed the Nzalang Nacional’s progress since 2019.

    However, they were fortunate not to have conceded a penalty against Mali, offered precious little going forward, and are now up against a Senegal defence that hasn’t let in a goal all tournament.

    Will their combative midfield be a match for the Teranga Lions?

  • Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Afcon.

    The Gambia

    Remarkable performance to here—which hasn’t come as a surprise to those of us who have followed the progress of Tom Saintfiet since he took the reins of the Scorpions—but can Gambia really get past hosts Cameroon?

    It would be a bombshell of an Afcon upset, and the Scorpions are excellently equipped to dampen the party here in Central Africa.

    They’re Covid-free (for now…!), and will be hoping the Japoma pitch can work in their favour.

  • Bertrand Traore of Burkina Faso celebrates goal during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

    Burkina Faso

    They weren’t able to bury a Gabon team who were down to ten men, and it proved costly late on when the Panthers bagged an equaliser.

    The Stallions managed to ride the nerves of a penalty shootout to reach the quarters, but can they emulate the generations of 2013 and 2017 and go further in the competition?

    They need Bertrand Traore to show his best consistently, and a lack of experience may start to show against the Tunisians.

  • Montassar Talbi, Tunisia, AFCON


    Dismal in the group stage—that 4-0 thumping of Mauritania aside—Tunisia’s traditional qualities came to the fore against Nigeria in the Last 16.

    That victory will give them major momentum as they head into the quarters, and they’ll fancy their chances against a Burkina Faso side who failed to defeat Ethiopia in the group stage.

    With veterans Wahbi Khazri and Youssef Msakni leading the line, the Carthage Eagles will fancy their chances of returning to the semis.

  • Mohamed Abou Gabal Gabaski, Egypt, January 2022


    The Pharaohs have shaken off the shackles, registering 21 shots in their Last 16 draw with the Ivory Coast before going on to defeat the Elephants on penalties.

    There was evidence that the North Africans have other ways of hurting teams—beyond just Mohamed Salah—but they could risk being outclassed by Morocco.

    Can the seasoned Pharaohs, and their coach Carlos Queiroz, overcome yet another more talented outfit?

  • Vincent Aboubakar of Cameroon celebrates 2nd goal during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.


    Cameroon’s momentum has slowed in recent games, as they followed up the 4-1 thumping of Ethiopia with a 1-1 draw against Cape Verde and a narrow 2-1 triumph against a Comoros team with no goalkeeper.

    The Indomitable Lions have many ways of hurting teams, with Vincent Aboubakar the tournament’s outstanding player so far, but defensive fragilities and a brittle mentality could yet bring them down.

  • Sadio Mane celebrations Senegal vs Cape Verde


    Defensively rigorous—Senegal haven’t conceded yet all tournament—although the Teranga Lions continue to lack creativity in the heart of the park.

    Their 2-0 victory over Cape Verde offers hope, even if it was overshadowed by Sadio Mane’s head injury, while the arrival of Ismaila Sarr should give them a major lift heading into the next round.

  • Achraf Hakimi Morocco Afcon 2021


    The Atlas Lions continue to grow into the tournament, and their extensive undefeated streak stands them in could stead as they prepare to face Egypt in the quarter-finals.

    Achraf Hakimi and Sofiane Boufal are both creating a plethora of chances and winning games simultaneously, and surely it’s only a matter of time before Youssef En-Nesyri and his fellow strikers start putting these chances away with regularity.