Featured image by CAFOnline

As AFCON 2023 progresses, football fans worldwide eagerly anticipate the upcoming quarter-finals. It’s poised to deliver a show of unpredictable drama and breathtaking skill. With the remaining teams gearing up for intense clashes, here’s what to look forward to in the quarter-final stage on Feb. 2 and 3 — and what coaches and players have to say about it.

Nigeria v Angola 

Having won three titles previously, Nigeria has its eyes set on the fourth. Believed to be one of the favorites of AFCON 2023, fans expect the Super Eagles to use their experience to once again put their nation on top. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) published this message from Nigeria’s coach José Peseiro: “We will now focus on our next match against Angola, which is having an excellent tournament.”

Angola was the first to qualify for the quarter-final after defeating Namibia 3-0. It’s also the Palancas Negras first time advancing to this stage in 14 years. Angola’s head coach Pedro Gonçalves told CAF, “It’s important to keep being resilient and focus on each match as we try to make efforts in each game.”

DR Congo v Guinea

Guinea advances for the first time since 1976 in a direct elimination match at AFCON 2023. “This victory is historic, no one has managed to do that in history,” striker Ibrahim Diakite told reporters, in a post-game press conference after his team beat Equatorial Guine 1-0.” This victory is for the people who have suffered for a long time.”

DR Congo knocked out Egypt with an 8-7 win on penalties. In a pre-game statement posted to the CAF website, DR Congo coach Sébastien Desabre said, “We know what we need to improve. Until then, we have shown interesting things but not necessarily validated by victories. My players are motivated. We are going to use the ball, and play our game. We want to show everyone that DR Congo is back.” 

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Cape Verde v South Africa

Cape Verde’s wins just won’t stop. For only the second time in history, Cape Verde has made it through to the quarter-finals. Fans can look forward to the continuous strength of this team as they believe they have more to prove. “We are carving our path; we know there are many bigger teams than us, but we are trying to focus on our game to have the opportunity to face these African powerhouses,” is the statement CAF shared from the Cape Verde coach, popularly known as Bubista.

Producing one of the major upsets after knocking the favorite Morocco out with a 2-0 win, South Africa’s strategy should not be overlooked. South Africa coach Hugo Bross told CAF, “In the first half, we tried to contain them and cut off their passing lines. In the second, the game opened up and we scored. We knew that whoever scores first in the match will have a big advantage.” Bafana Bafana’s strength and tenacity reflects the hunger they have to take advantage of every opportunity.

Mali v Côte d’Ivoire

Host Côte d’Ivoire is on a different level after defeating the defending champions, Senegal, 5-4 on penalties during extra time. This redemption is monumental. Midfielder, Jean-Michael Seri, who won man of the match, adamantly stated it doesn’t matter how Côte d’Ivoire qualified — they qualified. The team fought for the nation with resilience, unity and team performance. We can anticipate a controlled team looking to get the job done. 

With AFCON 2023 being Mali’s 13th appearance and ninth in a row, they know there’s much more work ahead. The team must bring forth quality plays and strong defense if they want to keep moving toward the trophy. “We know that it will be difficult against them, but we will bring our quality and give it our best against them,”  Mali’s coach, Eric Chelle declared in his statement to CAF.

Prize money

With so much at stake, AFCON 2023 has shown fans should anticipate the unpredictable when it comes to the winners of fixtures. What is certain is the amount the winners will receive, according to CAFonline.

Place Prize Money
Winner $7,000,000
Runners-up   $4,000,000
Semi-finalists (2 teams) $2,500,000  x 2
Quarter-finalists (4 teams) $1,300,000 x 4
Round of 16 (8 teams) $800,000 x 8
The two (2) teams ranked 3rd in their group but fail to qualify for the round of 16 (2 teams) $700,000 x 2
The teams ranked 4th in each of the 6 groups  (6 teams)   $500,000 x 6

For players and fans alike, the dream of lifting the AFCON 2023 trophy grows ever closer. The quarter-finals will offer moments of both triumph and heartbreak. Anything can happen.