The 2014 African Nations Championship will culminate over the next week with the semifinals, third-place match and finals. The five teams remaining have put on a wildly entertaining, high-scoring affair thus far, and the third edition of the tournament figures to have its best finish yet.
Below is all the information on who will be playing and when for the rest of CHAN 2014:
|Semifinals||Zimbabwe vs. Libya||1/29||15:00|
|Semifinals||Nigeria vs. Ghana/DR Congo||1/29||18:30|
|Third-Place Match||Semi Loser 1 vs. Semi Loser 2||2/1||15:00|
|Final||Semi Winner 1 vs. Semi Winner 2||2/1||18:00|
So what can football fans expect from the final four matches? Below are a few predictions on how the rest of the tournament will unfold.
Nigeria and Libya Win Semifinals
Nigeria's quarterfinal comeback against Morocco was a miraculous escape, as the favorites entered halftime trailing 3-0. But a quartet of goals from Ugonna Uzochukwu, Rabiu Ali, Ejike Uzoenyi and Aliyu Ibrahim gave the Eagles a stunning extra-time victory.
Now facing the winner of the Ghana-DR Congo match, Nigeria should claim their status as the favorites the rest of the way. Manager Stephen Keshi might be concerned with his overworked defense, though Nigeria's boss pushed the right substitution buttons to preserve his side's lead after Ibrahim's goal.
Conversely, the Zimbabwe-Libya matchup is a meeting of two Cinderellas, as both sides defeated quarterfinal favorites to reach the last four. Zimbabwe put on a thorough exhibition in their 2-1 win against Mali, with a late goal masking how one-sided the match truly was. Libya, meanwhile, defeated 2012 London participants Gabon on penalties after a 1-1 deadlock over 120 minutes.
The all-underdog semifinal will likely come down to the matchup between Libya's mobile high-scoring midfield against a Zimbabwe defense that has conceded just a single goal the entire tournament. Ultimately, look for Libya to break through the stingy Zimbabwean side and continue their run to the finals.
Nigeria Lifts the Trophy
But while Libya will seek a championship few predicted, expect Nigeria to emerge victorious in the end. At the moment, the Eagles are quite clearly the hottest squad after their second-half quarterfinal surge, and look likely to win their first African Nations Championship.
It's certainly not out of the question that Libya could upset Nigeria in a potential final. The Libyans have loads of confidence, and buoyed by young coach Javier Clemente, they have played a loose and fun style of football thus far.
The Nigerians' tendency to play high-scoring matches does bode well for Libya, but it's hard to imagine their defense containing Nigeria's prolific offense, which has lapped the tournament competitors in goals scored. While championship finals tend to be lower-scoring due to more cautious strategy, look for a back-and-forth affair where Nigeria's superior talent emerges victorious.