The Africa Cup of Nations is down to the last 16 and the competition’s remaining teams will kick off the knockout round on Friday.
Africa Cup of Nations: Egypt favourite to win trophy
The tournament’s 24 teams are now down to the final 16 as host Egypt remains the favourite to lift an eighth title. The Pharaohs have not won the competition since 2010, however.
Egypt may be the favourite to win the Africa Cup of Nations, but they are not the only former winner left in the competition.
Cameroon, winner in 2017, are still alive in the tournament and will play against Nigeria in the round of 16. It is an unenviable match for both national sides. Nigeria have struggled in the tournament despite collecting six points from nine in the group stage.
The Nigerians, former winners of the competition as well, finished second in Group B behind surprise package Madagascar. Nigeria have struggled in front of goal having scored just twice in three matches.
Former Africa Cup of Nations winners Ivory Coast, Tunisia, South Africa, Algeria, Ghana, and Morocco are all still in the tournament.
Meanwhile, Uganda, Senegal, Benin, Madagascar, Mali, and Guinea make up the nations which are competing for their first ever Africa Cup of Nations trophy.
DR Congo won the competition when the country was known as Zaire in 1974.
Africa Cup of Nations: A low-scoring competition
The tournament’s matches average just 1.89 goals per game. While attacking talent may be present in many of the national teams, goals have not been plentiful.
Twenty-eight matches of the 36 played in the group stage featured a win to nil or a nil-nil draw. The Egyptian heat may be playing a factor in the finishing on the pitch as teams have struggled to convert chances.
It is likely that the Africa Cup of Nations’ games will increase in terms of scoring once the knockout stage begins.
Africa Cup of Nations: Payment issues
While football is the main focus going into the knockout stage, other storylines have appeared that may threaten the competition for some teams. As seems to happen with ever Africa Cup of Nations event, players are threatening to strike, or striking, due to football federations not making payments.
Uganda players refused to train on Tuesday after the football federation failed to pay players $6,000 in bonuses for qualifying for the round of 16. It is the first time the Ugandans have ever qualified for the knockout stage.
Four pay disputes have hit the Africa Cup of Nations in total. Nigeria were promised $10,000 in bonuses and also refused to train when it wasn’t paid.
Cameroon refused to board their flight to the tournament due to unresolved issues over payments. Zimbabwe were believed to be ready to boycott the tournament over the federation not paying bonuses.
Due to the federations in charge of African football teams, players do not always receive their bonuses. In 2014, Ghana’s federation sent $3 million in cash to Brazil to pay players money after they stated they would not play.
In some African domestic leagues, players have had to strike and involve FIFA after clubs did not pay them.