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AFCON: Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt in fight of heavyweights for q-finals ticket

Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages continue on Wednesday and will see two African heavyweights in Ivory Coast and Egypt square off at the Douala Stadium for a place in the quarter-finals.

The Elephants enjoyed an unbeaten run in the group stages, picking up two wins and one draw, while the Pharaohs finished runners-up to Nigeria in Group D after claiming six points from three games.

On the back of a comfortable run in the group stages, Ivory Coast will head into the knockout stages with real belief and renewed confidence in their chances of going all the way and picking up their first Africa Cup of Nations title since 2015.

Having finished first in Group K of the qualifiers, Patrice Beaumelle’s men got their campaign proper underway on January 12, when they claimed a 1-0 victory over Equatorial Guinea before playing out a thrilling 2-2 draw with Sierra Leone four days later.

Ivory Coast then wrapped things up in the group stages in style as they saw off Algeria 3-1 last Thursday, when Franck Kessie, Ibrahim Sangare and Nicolas Pepe scored to send the reigning African champions packing.

The Elephants, who finished top of Group E, one point above runners-up Equatorial Guinea, head into Wednesday’s game unbeaten in all but one of their last 15 outings, claiming 10 wins and four draws in that time.

Egypt, on the other hand, were denied a dream start to their AFCON campaign as they fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Nigeria in their group opener on January 11.

Like all good sides do, the Pharaohs quickly bounced back from that result as they claimed a 1-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau four days later courtesy of a second-half strike from Mohamed Salah.

The Northeastern Africans wrapped up the group stages on a winning note as they saw off a resilient Sudan side 1-0 at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium last time out to clinch a second-placed finish in Group D with six points from three outings.

Egypt head into the round of 16 as the most decorated side on the continent with a record seven Africa Cup of Nations titles, with their last coming in 2010, when they picked up a 1-0 victory over Ghana in the final.

Carlos Queiroz’s men will feel confident of claiming the desired result and making it to the quarter-finals of the continental tournament as they go up against an opposing side who they are unbeaten against in all but one of the the last five meetings between the teams, claiming three wins and one draw in that time.

On the back of a dominant display in last Thursday’s group finale against Algeria, Beaumelle could name a similar starting lineup against the Pharaohs, with Sebastien Haller and Pepe spearheading the attack.

While the Arsenal man finished the group stages with two goals and one assist, Haller has netted two goals so far and the duo will look to come up trumps for the Elephants once again.

Meanwhile, Egypt will once again have to make do with the absence of Akram Tawfik and Ahmed Fatouh, who both came off injured in their group curtain-raiser against Nigeria on January 11.

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Abdelmoneim put on a sensational performance against Sudan last time out, when he scored the winner in the 35th minute and the 23-year-old should retain his spot in the XI.

Further up the pitch, we expect to see the attacking trio of Salah, Mustafa Mohamed and Omar Marmoush, who have started each of the Pharaohs’ opening three games.

Ivory Coast possible starting lineup:
Sangare; Aurier, Kossounou, Deli, Konan; Kessie, Seri, Sangare; Zaha, Haller, Pepe

Egypt possible starting lineup:
El-Shennawy; Kamal, Hegazi, Hamdi, Ashraf; Fathi, El-Sulya, Elneny; Mohamed, Marmoush, Salah



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