The only time the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations took place without Ghana or Nigeria participating was in 1998, when the Super Eagles had been excluded from the competition.
But when the round of the last-eight at this years’ competition gets under way in the Japoma Stadium in Douala on Saturday, the two powerhouses of African football will be missing.
Ghana failed to make it out of the group stages, while Nigeria were humbled by Tunisia in the first knock-out round.
The surprise team amongst the last eight is undoubtedly The Gambia, who are participating at the finals for the first time in their history. Having beaten Guinea in the last round, The Scorpions now face the hosts Cameroon in Douala on Saturday.
Cameroon’s progress in this competition has much to do with the scoring prowess of Vincent Aboubakar, whose six goals (so far) are the first time that any player scored more than five since South Africa’s Benni McCarthy did so in 1998.
Gambia coach Tom Saintfiet will be looking towards Sampdoria’s Omar Colley and James Gomez to prevent Aboubakar, who plays for Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, from adding to his impressive tally. Saturday’s other match sees Burkina Faso take on Tunisia in Garoua.
Two of the favourites to lift the trophy – Senegal and Egypt – will be in action in a double-header in the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in the capital Yaoundé on Sunday.
Although they have one of the worlds’ best strikers (Mohamed Salah) in their squad, Egypt have scored just two goals in their four games. They take on Morocco in a North African derby in the early game.
Salah, who has won the Champions League, the Club World Cup and the Premier League with Liverpool, said winning the Africa Cup of Nations would top that.
“I want to win something with the national team. It’s my country, that I love the most. This trophy for me would be completely different, would be the closest to my heart,” the Pharaohs’captain said.
Salah’s Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mané is doubtful for Senegal’s quarter-final against Equatorial Guinea. The striker suffered a concussion during Senegal’s 2-0 victory against Cape Verde and had to be substituted.
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said that his side had done well against Cape Verde, but now needed to focus on their game against Equatorial Guinea. “In the quarter-finals, we want to employ the same tempo and hard work to be able to get another convincing win.”
With a place in the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations at stake, the matches are bound to produce plenty of excitement and action and African football fans can make sure they do not miss out by watching it live and exclusive on the StarTimes channels.
Africa’s leading digital-TV operator will be showing all the games live and exclusively.