Uganda v Senegal, Cairo @ 10:00pm
Morocco v Benin, Cairo
Egypt v South Africa, Cairo
Nigeria v Cameroon, Alexandria
Madagascar v DR Congo, Alexandria
Algeria v Guinea, Cairo
Mali v Ivory Coast, Suez
Ghana v Tunisia, Ismailia
By Muhammad M. Dhakaba
After 12 days of group stage action and two days of rest, the journey to African Cup of Nations, Afcon glory continues today in the pyramids lands, Egypt.
The group stages coughed up lots of incidents from the goals, the misses, the blunders and the tactics. Not to forget the near empty stands; the permutations as to who qualifies for the knock-out.
But with the group stage over, contingents of eight out of the 24 teams will watch the next fixture from television sets while the remaining sixteen nations will, in the next four days, be cut down to eight to battle in the quarter-finals.
One of the opening fixtures in the round of 16 pits Uganda and Senegal at the Cairo International Stadium, starting at 10:00pm.
The Lions of Teranga– one of the pre-tournament favourites – lost one game in the group stage, a 0-1 defeat to Algeria.
But between the defeat; they had beaten Tanzania and then Kenya to guarantee a second place finish; and eventual qualification to this stage.
The Lions come-up against East Africa’s only remaining flag-career The Cranes, who also finished second in their group A after beating DR Congo 2-0, drawing 1-1 with Zimbabwe and losing 0-2 to the hosts Egypt.
The Cranes will be looking to put behind their pay row and focus at qualifying for the quarter-finals.
“Like every family, there are challenges – but such do not deter any development. And we in football – we are a family and our challenge rotates around money. But as of now, our focus is on the field – where we have to deal with Senegal,” said The Cranes’ Captain Denis Onyango.
But Onyango and team will have to deal with Liverpool Star forward Sadio Mane – the second in a row after Egypt Mohammed Salah.
Onyango and Mane were named in the 2018 African team of the year chosen by a Caf panel.
They are also Champions League winners in their respective capacities — Onyango with South African side Mamelodi Sundowns in Africa, three years ago and Mane with Liverpool in Europe last season.
Mane has scored twice and missed a penalty for Senegal in two group matches after being suspended for the opening match while Onyango has conceded three goals in three matches in the tournament.
Uganda last reached the knock-out stage at Afcon 41 years ago when The Cranes emerged as losing finalists to Ghana in 1978.
“Uganda Cranes is not afraid of anyone. We shall enjoy the moment and take on Senegal. The most important thing is the game ahead of us. What happened before, we call it past. We have re-opened the engine once again,” Onyango said.