Classic Encounters Expected In Afcon Semifinals
Here we are! After 48 matches in three weeks, the battle for the continent’s holy grail, the Africa Cup of Nations continues with the semifinals this midweek.
The hosts, Cameroon- if they were not at the start- have begun to dream of winning the title on home soil.
Senegal, who have also been nicknamed the “nearly men” for coming close on occasions will be desperate. The Teranga Lions have now qualified for successive semi-finals.
Egypt knows how to prosecute this competition- little wonder they have won it more than any other team. They face their toughest test against the hosts on Thursday and expectedly, they will be up for it.
Keeping their underdog tag, Burkina Faso have wriggled their way to the last four. Surely, now, they will be taken even more seriously.
The semi-finals will be nervy, yet exciting.
Burkina Faso vs Senegal
Without much fuss, qualifying alongside Cameroon in the group stages, the Burkinabès will be hopeful of reaching the final. They last made it there in 2013, where they lost to Nigeria.
Burkina Faso, under Kamou Malo have been defensively solid, with a low block, hoping to soak up pressure and hit swiftly on the break.
Aston Villa’s Bertrand Traore and teenager, Dango Outtara have been key to the team’s swift attacking display. However, the latter will miss this encounter after receiving a red card in the quarter final match against Tunisia. He had scored the only goal, too.
Expectedly, Malo’s men will cede the attacking initiative to Senegal. The strategy will be to, by all means, stop Sadio Mane and Ismaila Sarr from causing havoc on the flanks. Issa Kobore and Steeve Yago will have their work cut out.
Senegal has left its best for the knockouts. After an underwhelming group stage performance, they have scored five goals in the subsequent rounds, including three against Equatorial Guinea.
Mane has become even more influential from the left of attack. Aliou Cisse will once again count on the Liverpool forward. Yet, they will need to be patient in trying to break down the opponent’s defence.
If there was anytime this “golden generation” of Senegalese players could back themselves for the title, it will be now.
Senegal looks primed to progress, but an early goal from Burkina Faso could just make things a bit more unpredictable.
Prediction: Burkina Faso 0-2 Senegal
Cameroon vs Egypt
This is a repeat of the 2017 Afcon Final. Cameroon clinched the title with a 2-1 win. A largely diluted Cameroon side at the time, it must be said.
Yet, in this edition, they have been tagged as one of the favourites from the start. Creditably, they have coped with the pressure until now.
The Indomitable Lions face a different kind of opposition and a different Egypt. An Egyptian side that is tactically disciplined in defence, but with one of the best players in the world.
Toko Ekambi and Vincent Aboubacar have been the best forwards at the Afcon. However, Ahmed Hegazi and Mohamed Abdelmonem will have a say in how much impact the pair have.
Indeed, Mohamed Salah has come into his own in the last two games. The forward scored the equaliser and created the winner against Morocco. Carlos Queiroz will once again be counting on him. The former Champions are also sweating on the fitness of their first two goalkeepers.
Cameroon, on the other hand, have been effective in their 4-3-3 formation with Nouhou Tolo and Collins Fai proving key from the full-back positions.
Even then, they must be weary of the presence of Salah, who can create chances from almost nothing.
It is fair to expect drama in this fixture. The odd goal will likely determine the winners.
Prediction: Cameroon 1-1 Egypt (Egypt to qualify)