The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations will finally begin with the Round of 16 games that kick off on Friday, July 5, 2019.
Fans have endured a lot of boring and low scoring games until the end of the group stages and with tasty Round of 16 fixtures, it seems the AFCON will be lit from Friday.
Morocco starts against Benin
Morocco start with a game against Benin and the statistics books will certainly give the game to the north Africans, though in football stranger things have happened.
Hakim Ziyech wowed the whole of Europe with Ajax in the Dutch and Champions League but has not exactly covered himself in glory here.
Nordin Amrabat has been the more emphatic player in the Moroccan team.
The Benenoise are somewhat lucky to be in this stage. Who would have thought they were going to hold the Cameroonian team to a draw, but here we are.
Uganda will tackle Senegal later on Friday. Uganda started their campaign with a shock 2-0 win over DR. Congo and eventually qualified in 2nd place.
Their highest profile player is no doubt Dennis Onyango, the goalkeeper who is on the books of Mamelodi Sundowns, though Emmanuel Okwi has two goals to his name in the ongoing competition.
Classless Eagles to renew rivalry with Cameroon
If the knockout round game between Cameroon and Nigeria was set in the 80s or 90s, the continent would have stopped breathing until the final whistle.
Those were the days of Emmanuel Kunde, Stephen Tataw, Oman Biyick, Cyril Makanaky for Cameroon and the likes of Henry Nwosu, Stephen Keshi, Rashidi Yekini and Peter Rufai for Nigeria.
The quality of players on parade for both sides these days is a far cry from what obtained in the past but for the sake of reputation, it will be one to look out for.
While Nigeria managed wins over Guinea and Burundi, they lost to Madagascar. Cameroon, on the other hand, could not beat Benin. That sums up both sides.
Cup favourites, Egypt will hope to win well against South Africa who have had a horrible tournament so far and are very lucky to be playing in this stage. Egypt still have their talismanic attacker, Mohammed Sallah and inspirational captain, ElMohammady.
The nameless up in battle against Congo
The top scorer for this Malagasy side is a fellow called Faneva Andriatsima, and this is one of the easier names.
Their current squad has players like Arohasina Andrianarimanana and Carolus Andriamatsinoro so we are staying away from their names. They beat highly favoured Nigeria 2-0 to top a group that included Guinea and Burundi.
They can win against Congo. The Congolese lost their first two games and only came alive in their last group game winning 4-0 against Zimbabwe.
Ghana have shown class
Ghana have shown class since the AFCON began, apart from their second group game which they grew against Cameroon, they dispatched the other two sides they met in the Group- Benin and Guinea Bissau. Tunisia will be tough and this seems one of the better games of the Round of 16 .
Mali topped their group that included Tunisia, Angola and Mauritania and look like they are in for business.
Shaking off the lethargy
The group stage indeed bored viewers to tears, save for a few games that did not just have goals, they had quality.
In the Round of 16, the teams will be more evenly matched and hopefully, the games better than before.