Quarter-finals start today

There are some intriguing quarter-final match ups in the next two days at the Cup of Nations.

Africansportonline’s James Coker gives his assessment on the progress to the last eight and the games ahead.

The opening quarter pitches one of the favourites Ghana against rank outsiders Cape Verde.

All the pressure is on Ghana. The Black Stars did just what was expected of them as they topped Group B. Sometimes they looked really good, at other times really ordinary.

I’ve always believed Asamoah Gyan is not clinical enough at the highest level as he needs too many chances to score. Kwadwo Asamoah has not moved on yet to be a dominant central midfielder. There is not enough fantasy in this team and for Ghanaians hoping for a return to the glory years I think they will again be disappointed.

That said Cape Verde are made for them. The Blue Sharks are not burdened by expectations. It was enough to finish ahead of Morocco and Angola in their maiden Nations Cup appearance. The whole tournament has been a shot to nothing for the minnows. They’ve played with admirable confidence, but this is the quality end of things and Ghana are a step above anything they faced in Group A.  of a team with nothing to lose, making up for their lack of quality with lion-hearted commitment. However, a meeting with Ghana means that life is about to get harder.

Ghana should not underestimate Cape Verde. The Islanders have some bright players like Platini and Helderson and can take a chance if offered. That said I expect a Ghana victory.

In Saturday’s second match South Africa take on Mali. South Africa have a great chance against Mali of making the semi-finals, which given their recent record would be some achievement. I really think this game is up in the air.

The last time the two met in a quarter-final was in 2002 and Mali, the hosts, prevailed. Mali actually have two survivors from that clash 11 years ago in Seydou Keita and Adama Coulibaly.

Gordon Igesund’s team can be good going forward but can be got at defensively. Igesund will have them well organised and if they stick to his plan they have a great chance to come out on top.

Malians back home are looking for something to shout about, Seydou Keita has made it clear that the Eagles are desperate to do well and give them just that. Mali are a really physically imposing side who make the most of their resources.

Keita remains the key to a Mali team greater than the sum of its parts. A clash against South Africa gives them a great opportunity to make the semi-finals for the second tournament running.
The biggest clash of the round kicks off Sunday when Ivory Coast play Nigeria.

The Super Eagles are in the quarter-finals despite failing to blowing hot and cold. Coach Stephen Keshi warned ahead of the tournament that his side were far from the finished product. Too true. The lack of creativity was always going to be a big worry and saw Nigeria trying out the likes of Rabiu Ibrahim before the tournament.

That said, Nigeria still have the players to trouble the Ivorians and Keshi, will be hoping that Victor Moses and his Chelsea team-mate John Mikel Obi hit top form.

Some will say even if they do Ivory Coast have been on cruise control: Showing power, pace and brilliance when needed but keeping their powder mainly dry.

Not much yet from Drogba, but Yaya Toure and Gervinho in particular have lived up to their star billing.

Although the Ivorians have been less than riveting to watch on occasions, they turned on the style in the 3-0 demolition of Tunisia.  If they play like that against Nigeria there will be only one winner.

I think Burkina Faso and Togo is made for Emmanuel Adebayor.

A quarter-final appearance appeared to be the limit of their ambitions when the tournament kicked off. But a meeting with a Traore-less Burkina Faso won’t faze them. The one thing that mitigates against them is an inability to take chances but they are creating them.

Burkina Faso topped the group ahead of Nigeria and lacklustre Zambia. They arrived in South Africa burdened by a 17-match winless record at the tournament and then thrashed Ethiopia 4-0 with 10 men.

The star for the Stallions was France-based striker Alain Traore and he has succumbed to injury. Without him it is difficult to see where their goals will come from.

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