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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 February 2019

Congo, Tunisia, Ghana and Ivory Coast should move on

With the African Cup of Nations reaching the quarter-final stage, our man in Equatorial Guinea, Jonathan Wilson, gives his verdict on who will make the last four.
epa04591716 Yaya Toure (R) of Ivory Coast clears the ball from Edgar Salli of Cameroon during the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations football match between Cameroon and Ivory Coast at Malabo Stadium, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, 28 January 2015.  EPA/GAVIN BARKER UK AND IRELAND OUT
epa04591716 Yaya Toure (R) of Ivory Coast clears the ball from Edgar Salli of Cameroon during the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations football match between Cameroon and Ivory Coast at Malabo Stadium, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, 28 January 2015. EPA/GAVIN BARKER UK AND IRELAND OUT

With the African Cup of Nations reaching the quarter-final stage, our man in Equatorial Guinea, Jonathan Wilson, gives his verdict on who will make the last four.

Congo v DR Congo, 8pm, Saturday

The two Congos have never met before in the Nations Cup finals, although they did play in qualifying in July 2013, both games finishing in narrow wins for the home team.

Congo’s progress, even from the relatively weak Group A, came as something of a surprise. They spent the first hour of their opening match being outplayed by Equatorial Guinea, but having settled since, Claude Leroy’s side have been quietly impressive. They are led by the midfield scurrying of Delvin N’Dinga and the robust centre-forward play of Thievy Bifouma.

They came back to draw against the hosts and then beat both Gabon and Equatorial Guinea to secure an unexpected place in the last eight.

DR Congo went through with three draws, Yannick Bolasie following up an exceptional performance against Zambia in the opening game with rather less effective performances against Cape Verde and Tunisia. If he is not firing, DR Congo can lack creativity.

Probable winner - Congo

Tunisia v Equatorial Guinea, 11.30pm, Saturday

For a side packed with so many gifted creative players, Tunisia make themselves extremely hard to like. The first resort always seems to be to fall back and spoil, but when they play like they did in the opening minutes against DR Congo, they are a good side to watch.

Ahmed Akaichi has arguably been the most effective centre-forward in the tournament, while Yassine Chikhaoui is a talented playmaker. They should have too much for a willing but limited Equatorial Guinea side who have performed way above themselves so far.

Javier Balboa of Estoril Praia has been their main creative spark, but really this is a side that has run on the emotions of the crowd in Bata, where they have never lost a game.

Tunisia, though, should have the discipline to frustrate the hosts and then the class to undo them once the crowd has been quieted.

Probable winner - Tunisia

Ghana v Guinea,9pm, Sunday

Ghana have not played well, but they have shown an admirable capacity to find goals late in games. Their spirit has been questioned in past Nations Cup, but that, at least, is not in doubt this time around.

As Asamoah Gyan’s fitness returns after his bout with malaria, he should pose even more of a threat up front, while the signs are that Andre Ayew might at last be bringing his best form to a Nations Cup.

Guinea are robust but limited opponents. Guinea are heavily reliant on Ibrahima Traore, swooping in from the flank, for creativity, while injury has left them with an extremely inexperienced defence. In every game so far, they have ended up looking exhausted by the final stages, desperately clinging on.

Probable winner - Ghana

Ivory Coast v Algeria, 11.30pm, Sunday

The tendency over the past decade has been for Ivory Coast to start tournaments well and then suddenly falter.

After an awful opening 45 minutes against Guinea, though, Ivory Coast this time have slowly improved.

The switch to three at the back has helped them, with Kolo Toure and Serge Aurier excelling. While they have not yet caught light from an attacking point of view, the potential is certainly there with Yaya Toure, Seydou Doumbia, Wilfried Bony and, returning after a two-game suspension, Gervinho.

Algeria were many people’s pre-tournament favourites, but they have played to their best only in fits and starts so far.

Algeria eliminated Ivory Coast at this stage in Angola in 2010, and whoever wins this time will probably become favourites to lift the title.

Probable winner - Algeria

sports@thenational.ae

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Updated: January 29, 2015 04:00 AM

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