Only winners will survive from here on out at the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations, as the knockout stages have moved into the semifinals.
Host Cameroon became the first semifinalist after a convincing 2-0 win over The Gambia. Karl Toko Ekambi accounted for both goals as the Indomitable Lions moved on to face Mo Salah and Egypt, which survived a North African quarterfinal battle against Morocco in extra time. Salah had a goal and the game-winning assist.
Another North African nation, Tunisia, will not be joining the semis after falling 1-0 to Burkina Faso, which continues its surprise run. The Stallions will face pre-tournament favorite Senegal in the semis. In the last quarterfinal, Sadio Mane and the Lions of Teranga took care of Equatorial Guinea 3-1 with two second-half goals to break up the tie.
MORE: AFCON 2022 final group standings
Among other top teams that qualified for the tournament, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast were eliminated in the Round of 16, while defending champion Algeria and traditional power Ghana were ousted in the group stage.
If there’s a draw after 90 minutes of regulation during these knockout rounds, there will be 30 minutes of extra time played, followed by a penalty-kick shootout if the deadlock persists. Only the third-place match on Feb. 6 will bypass extra time and head straight to penalty kicks.
The AFCON 2022 quarterfinals were held over two days on Jan. 29-30 with the semis and finals happening in a span of five days in February.
The AFCON tournament is being carried by beIN Sports in the USA and Canada, and coverage will be available in both English and Spanish.
Cable and satellite TV channels beIN Sports and beIN Sports en Espanol will carry matches, as will free channel beIN Sports XTRA. Fans can access all of them on fuboTV , which is available for new users via a free trial .
beIN streams are also available for users of Fanatiz and YouTube TV. And since beIN XTRA is free, it’s available on a host of other streaming platforms including Roku and Pluto TV.
MORE: Updated list of AFCON top scorers
The final semifinal spots were filled on Sunday. The semis will take place in midweek on Wednesday and Thursday.
The quarterfinals wrapped up on Sunday with the pre-tournament favorite Senegal just one step away from returning to the AFCON final after Sadio Mane & Co. knocked off Equatorial Guinea in a quarterfinal 3-1.
The marquee matchup of the round also took place on the same day: Mohamed Salah scored Egypt’s opener and registered the game-winning assist in extra time as Egypt dispatched fellow North African nation Morocco 2-1.
The quarterfinals began with host Cameroon, which knocked off The Gambia with relative ease. The match saw Karl Toko Ekambi move to within a goal of teammate and top scorer Vincent Aboubakar atop the competition’s scoring chart. Aboubakar’s six goals are more than any other goalscorer in the Africa Cup of Nations since the 1998 edition.
Burkina Faso used a first-half goal by Dango Ouattara to knock off Tunisia and advance to the semis again after finishing in third place in the 2017 AFCON. The Stallions finished with 10 men after Ouattara was sent off for dishing out an elbow with eight minutes remaining, but Tunisia could not take advantage and will feel hard done by after a leg-crunching tackle in the Burkina Faso box did not result in a penalty kick.
MORE: Updated AFCON 2022 schedule, results & highlights
Similar to other continental championships and World Cup tournaments, the Africa Cup of Nations began with a group stage, followed by knockout rounds all the way to the final.
The 24 nations were divided into six groups of four nations each. At the conclusion of round-robin group play — with three points awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss — the top two teams in each group based on points (and tiebreakers, if necessary) advanced to the knockouts. The remaining slots in the Round of 16 were completed by the four best third-place finishers.
A predetermined knockout bracket is being played out all the way through to the final. If any knockout match ends in a tie after 90 minutes, the teams will play 30 minutes of extra time. If the draw persists, a penalty-kick shootout will determine the team to move on. The third-place match on Feb. 6 is the only one that would skip extra time and move straight to the shootout in case of a draw.
For the first time in the competition’s history, all 52 matches are featuring the use of a Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
MORE: Ranking the top 10 players at AFCON
Judging by BetMGM’s pre-tournament odds, Senegal-Algeria was the projected repeat final, but that won’t be happening given Algeria’s group-stage elimination. Senegal had the lowest odds of the bunch going into AFCON 2022, and it is the presumed favorite in the knockouts to win its first AFCON title.
Among the other nine nations judged the most likely to win it all, host Cameroon is still alive and will meet Egypt in the semifinal stage. Burkina Faso was one of the long shots and didn’t figure among the top 10 most likely to win it all.
‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort