For two more teams in the Africa Cup of Nations, the semifinals await. For two other teams, a plane ride home will be booked.
In Sunday's first game—arguably the most anticipated game of the quarterfinal round—the young but talented Nigerians face the more experienced and equally skilled Ivory Coast. In the second game, Burkina Faso takes on one of the surprise teams to reach the quarterfinals, Togo.
As always, it promises to be an exciting day of football. Let's recap the Afcon action.
Nigeria Defeats Ivory Coast, 2-1
Ivory Coast looked like it was going to steamroll through the Afcon knockout stages after looking very impressive in the group stage. Nigeria had other ideas.
Emmanuel Emenike fizzed a free kick past Boubacar Barry in the 43rd minute, Sunday Mba used a bit of a deflection to do the same in the 78th minute and Nigeria pulled off the 2-1 upset of Ivory Coast.
Are the days of labeling Nigeria as a talented but underachieving side over? It's probably too soon to answer that question, but the country took a step forward on Sunday.
This was a fun game throughout, with neither team afraid to play an open game. Nigeria looked the better team early, however, as Ivory Coast seemed to dip in form in the attacking third.
And it would be Nigeria who would strike first, though it looked like a weak goal. Perhaps Barry didn't pick up the ball right away behind the wall—and give credit where credit is due, Emenike absolutely ripped his shot—but the ball sailed right over the head of the keeper, a save you'd expect him to make.
Instead, Nigeria went into the half up a goal. The younger Nigerians showed no fear in the first half and clearly frustrated the favored Ivorians.
But Ivory Coast would quickly answer in the second half. Didier Drogba would swing in a free kick from the edge of the box, and Cheick Tiote would be there to finish it with a clinical header, equalizing the score in the 50th minute.
That would temporarily shift momentum to the Ivory Coast, but Nigeria was not to be denied. Victor Moses was particularly effective in this contest, causing constant headaches for the Ivory Coast defense.
But it would be Mba who would get the game winner for Ivory Coast in the 78th minute, blasting a shot from 20 yards out. Ivory Coast would try valiantly to send the game into extra time, but the Nigeria defense would hold on.
Nigeria will face Mali in the semifinals.
Burkina Faso Defeats Togo, 1-0
It may have taken 105 minutes, but Burkina Faso finally scored the game's lone goal and earned a date with Ghana in the semifinals after a 1-0 win over Togo.
After a scoreless 90 minutes and nearly a scoreless first overtime session, Jonathan Pitroipa would head home a Charles Kabora corner to give Burkina Faso the lead. Togo wouldn't be able to crack the tough Burkina Faso defense in the second overtime session.
Burkina Faso has given up just one goal in four games. Ghana will certainly have a tough time cracking the stout Burkina Faso defense. The concern for Burkina Faso will remain generating goals of its own with top scorer Alain Traore done for the tournament.
Both teams are best at playing defensive games and striking on the counter-attack, so as you might imagine, the first half was a rather cagey, methodical affair. In other words, it wasn't terribly exciting. Neither team wanted to give up the mistake that led to an early deficit.
A pitch resembling a sand box didn't help matters.
While the second half would be a bit more lively, neither team could find that moment of brilliance to put them ahead. That wouldn't come until Pitroipa's header in extra time.
Still, it was a good showing for Togo and a respectable, if somewhat dull, performance this afternoon. Certainly, Tottenham fans will be glad the one healthy striker the team has left, Emmanuel Adebayor, will now be returning to the squad, I'm sure.
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