Uganda vs. Senegal
This one is tougher to predict than it may appear on paper, with one of the more disappointed big guns pitted against one of the more impressive ‘lesser lights’ of the competition.
Uganda started well against the Democratic Republic of Congo, and were unfortunate not to have taken the lead against Egypt in their final group game, and they still lack a certain cutting edge up front.
If they can refine that attacking unit, then they can cause problems, particularly for a Senegal team without injured goalkeeper Eduard Mendy and with Salif Sane doubtful.
I’m tempted to go for Uganda to progress here—the Teranga Lions have looked disjointed going forward—but the West Africans just have too much quality in the final third for me to write them off.
Morocco vs. Benin
Like the first match, this one might be a little tougher for the heavyweights than it appears on paper.
Michael Dussuyer has a point to prove against Herve Renard after his Ivorian side were dumped out by the Frenchman at the last Nations Cup, but I can’t see him getting revenge here.
As long as the Atlas Lions keep the tempo up, they’ll find a way through.
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Nigeria vs. Cameroon
I’m thoroughly underwhelmed by Clarence Seedorf’s Cameroon so far this tournament; they lack an identity going forward and haven’t been particularly convincing at the back.
Indeed, they were fortunate not to fall behind against Ghana, and are clearly lacking a cutting edge.
Nigeria haven’t been much more impressive—infamously falling to a shock defeat by Madagascar—but I expect a response from Gernot Rohr’s side here against the champions.
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Egypt vs. South Africa
There are positives for South Africa to take from the group stage, even if their play hasn’t won too many admirers back home.
They were only defeated by Morocco in the 90th minute, and that rugged defensive display will give them confidence against the Pharaohs.
However, a combination of home support, a defence that’s yet to be breached, Mahmoud Trezeguet and, of course, Mohamed Salah, should prove too much for Bafana Bafana.
Algeria vs. Guinea
Perhaps the easiest Round of 16 clash to predict, although primarily due to Algeria’s quality rather than any criticism aimed towards Guinea.
Nonetheless, the Syli Nationale haven’t been anything close to their full capacity without the injured—or at best, half fit—Naby Keita, and they’ve only progressed by virtue of beating Burundi in their final game.
Their organisation kept Nigeria at bay for 77 minutes, but Algeria have too much—to many attackers who can hurt you from too many different directions—to be similarly frustrated.
Madagascar vs. Democratic Republic of Congo
Despite qualifying among the best third-placed teams—and therefore facing a group winner—I’m backing the DRC to progress here.
They found their rhythm—and their goalscoring boots—against Zimbabwe, picking up the biggest win of the tournament so far to tear into the knockouts in style.
Cedric Bakambu is a contender for the Golden Boot, while the introduction of Youssouf Mulumbu ensures ballast in midfield.
Madagascar have already overachieved here, and while they might have secured something against the DRC team that fell to Uganda, I feel their race will come to an end here.
Ghana vs. Tunisia
One of the toughest Round of 16 clashes to predict.
Tunisia have been one of the great under-performers of the competition so far, failing to win any of their matches in a fairly straightforward group, and enduring a scare or two in their final match against Mauritania.
Unless there’s an improvement of some kind, they’ll go out, particularly against a Ghana team where both of the Ayew brothers are starting to fire on all cylinders.
However, I believe that Tunisia do have an extra gear to find; they’ve got big game players and must exploit the defensive vulnerabilities the Black Stars showed against Benin.
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Mali vs. Ivory Coast
Could we have an upset on the cards here?
Mali continue to go under the radar despite a particularly impressive group-stage showing in which they held Tunisia and thumped Mauritania.
They’re a cohesive unit, with presence in defence, well-rounded midfielders, and a few strikers in goalscoring form.
However, they haven’t yet faced a challenge like the Ivorians, who finally came good in the second half of their meeting with Kenya.
Limited opponents, perhaps, but in Wilfried Zaha, Nicolas Pepe and Franck Kessie, the Ivory Coast boast players who can hurt the opposition, while Serey Die played like a man possessed against the Harambee Stars.
Prediction: Ivory Coast