Group play in the Africa Cup of Nations will come to a close on Wednesday with the final matches of Group D. The Ivory Coast, which entered the tournament as the favorite, has already secured advancement, leaving one spot up for grabs.
By day's end, the final eight will be determined with quarterfinal play taking place over the weekend. While a couple surprising contenders have emerged during the opening round, the Ivory Coast and Ghana are still the top two.
Let's examine both of the matches on the schedule for Day 12 and make predictions for both, which will also determine which country joins the Elephants in the knockout stages.
Algeria vs. Ivory Coast
The play of Gervinho has been one of the tournament's biggest surprises. The Arsenal striker takes a lot of heat for his play at the club level, often rightfully so, but he's helped carry the Ivory Coast attack in the early going.
His goal late in the opener against Togo is the only reason the Ivory Coast enters the group finale without pressure on its shoulders. Yaya Toure has also been impressive, and that only begins to scratch the surface of the Elephants' talent.
On the flip side, Algeria is struggling. The Fennec Foxes have only been able to generate a couple good scoring chances, and couldn't convert any of them. Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise given their lack of international experience up front.
While the Ivory Coast won't take any unnecessary risks in this match with one eye on the quarterfinals, it should still want to enter the next round with momentum. The favorites have enough depth to beat Algeria even if a few big names don't start.
Prediction: 2-1 Ivory Coast
Togo vs. Tunisia
Togo and Tunisia both enter the final group match with three points. The good news for Togo is that it holds the tiebreaker advantage, which means all the Sparrow Hawks need to advance is a draw. Tunisia must play for the victory.
It turns out the depth of Togo's attack was overlooked heading into the event. Everybody knew about Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor, but Jonathan Ayite and Serge Gakpe have also made an impact in the final third.
Tunisia's chances took a serious hit when it lost Issam Jemaa to injury. He's scored 34 goals at the international level and nobody else on the roster has netted more than seven. His absence was noticeable in a 3-0 loss to the Ivory Coast.
Even though Tunisia still has a strong enough roster, led by midfielder Youssef Msakni, to keep it close with Togo, generating enough offense to earn all three points is going to be an issue. The Sparrow Hawks should find a way to advance.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!