After an intriguing group stage at the Africa Cup of Nations, we've reached the quarterfinals. Now the real fun begins.
We get the hosts, South Africa, taking on a Mali team that finished last year's tournament in third place. We get Ivory Coast against Nigeria, the marquee match of this round. And let's not forget about talented Ghana taking on Cape Verde, or Burkina Faso facing the Togo Emmanuel Adebayors.
Yes, I've given them a new team name. Let's take a more in-depth look at each quarterfinal match.
South Africa vs. Mali
For my money, this is the toughest match to pick in the quarterfinals. South Africa has the home-field advantage, has scored four goals in the past two matches and has the talent and depth to hang with any team in this tournament.
But Mali has wily veteran Seydou Keita and a tough midfield with Mahamadou Diarra and Mohamed Sissoko patrolling the middle of the pitch. Plus, this is a team that finished third in last year's tournament, so the experience to make a run is there as well.
I hate picking against the home side, but I like Mali to pull this one out, with extra time and penalties possibly factoring into the outcome.
Prediction: Mali wins, 1-0
Ghana vs. Cape Verde
Only Ivory Coast has more goals than Ghana's six in the tournament, and with Asamoah Gyan, Christian Atsu and Kwadwo Asamoah all providing a threat, the Black Stars are a very dangerous team.
I think Cape Verde is a bit in over their heads here. Cape Verde did well to hold South Africa to a scoreless draw and hasn't lost yet in the tournament, but a talent deficit will cost them against the superior Black Stars.
Prediction: Ghana wins, 1-0
Ivory Coast vs. Nigeria
Ivory Coast is not a team you want to be playing right now. The side hasn't lost a game, leads the tournament with seven goals and has top-notch talent on the roster, including Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Gervinho.
Nigeria is a talented side in its own right, and John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike have left their mark on this tournament thus far. But the Nigerians, for all of that talent, are wildly inconsistent, and they aren't talented enough to survive a down night against Ivory Coast.
This game will be a lot of fun, but the Ivorians will take it.
Prediction: Ivory Coast wins, 2-1
Burkina Faso vs. Togo
Before today, I would have probably picked Burkina Faso. But with the news that forward Alain Traore—arguably the tournament's top player—is probably out for the rest of the AFCON with a thigh injury, I have to swing my vote over to Togo.
But betting on Togo is a dicey proposition. The team really needs Emmanuel Adebayor to be at his best to compete against the level of teams in the quarters.
While he's been a positive force offensively for the team thus far, he did miss two really good chances to score against Tunisia, a game that nearly sent the team out of the tournament. Had Khaled Mouelhi scored a penalty kick late in the game, Tunisia would have won 2-1 and moved on.
But I think the loss of Traore is going to affect Burkina Faso's mentality, and I think Togo is good enough to knock them off.
Prediction: Togo wins, 2-1