Sunday’s first Last 16 clash will see Madagascar and DR Congo face off at 5pm at the Alexandria Stadium in Egypt. On the previous occasion that these two met, DR Congo destroyed their opponents by six goals to one away from home, so Madagascar will be seeking retribution here. The group stage of the AFCON 2019 went in favour of Madagascar who topped Group B ahead of Nigeria by one point, however DR Congo ended the phase in third spot having amassed only three points, six behind Egypt at the summit.
Madagascar came through their three opening matches of the AFCON unscathed, drawing once and coming out on top twice. In their first outing, Guinea came from behind to prevent Madagascar from getting all three with a penalty in the sixty-sixth minute from Francois Kamano after Anicet Abel and Carolus Andriamahitsinoro provided their nation with a 1-2 lead. Upon the encounter with Burundi there was little in terms of goalmouth action, but that didn’t stop Marco Ilaimaharitra from putting his side in front only fourteen minutes from the end. That result placed Madagascar in a fantastic position as they prepared for a crucial matchup versus Nigeria. Early in that all important fixture, Lalaina Nomenjanahary struck the ball home to put the Black Stars under real pressure. Under ten minutes passed in the second forty-five before Andriamahitsinoro grabbed his second of the competition and doubled his team’s tally on the night, ensuring the win would be going the way of his team.
DR Congo had no such luck in their unfortunate AFCON group stage campaign, suffering defeats in each of the two first matches and failing to score in either tie. Uganda saw to their demise before anyone else as Patrick Kaddu notched his country’s first goal in the tournament fourteen minutes in, and Emmanuel Okwi created an even greater gap between the pair with a solid effort shortly after the interval. It was always going to be tough coming up against the tournament hosts, Egypt, but conceding after twenty-five minutes meant that the task became doubly difficult. Ahmed El Mohamedy got his name on the scoresheet then, and Champions League final goal-scorer Mohamed Salah netted with an assist from Trezeguet soon after. This left DR Congo in the unenviable predicament of needing a victory against Zimbabwe on the final day, and that’s exactly what they did. A 4-0 demolition of the now-bottom side thanks to goals from Jonathan Bolingi, Cedric Bakambu and Brit Assombalonga were enough to see their side progress to the next round.
There are no injury concerns for Madagascar ahead of these vital ninety minutes, although everyone will need to be on top of their game if they’re to eliminate a confident DR Congo. We expect Madagascar will line up in a 4-3-3 formation, similar to the match versus Nigeria in the group stage. Melvin Adrien should remain as number one protected by a defence of Pascal Razakananten and Thomas Fontaine in the middle, accompanied by Jerome Mombris and Romain Metanire on either side. As the three man midfield, we can see Anicet Abel, Ibrahim Amada and Marco Ilaimaharitra, while Nomenjanahary, Andriamahitsinoro and Andriatsima lead the line.
After defeats using 4-1-4-1 and 4-3-3, DR Congo found the best way to line up was in a basic 4-4-2. This allowed them to hit four past Zimbabwe and despite the opposition controlling 59% of the possession, they still managed ten shots in total and boosted their accuracy greatly. Since that formation worked so well, it’s unlikely they’ll sway from it and here it’s expected that Ley Matampi will stay as number one behind Marcel Tisserand and Chancel Mbemba. Further up the park, DR Congo’s four midfielders will be Jacques Maghoma, Wilfried Moke, Youssuf Mulumbu and Chadrac Akolo. Up top, Cedric Bakambu and Jonathan Bolingi will play as a striking partnership.
Madagascar have been in much better form going into this affair, unbeaten in their last four outings including friendlies. Five goals scored and two conceded provides them with a positive goal difference, and considering DR Congo were defeated comfortably in two of the three group matches we can see them leaving the tournament earlier than they’d like. Skybet have Madagascar to win at 13/5. DR Congo found their shooting boots against Zimbabwe though so they won’t be a pushover by any means, and the attacker are certainly going to be eager in their attempts to add more goals, meaning chances are likely on both sides. Skybet are offering Madagascar to win and BTTS at 17/2. Andriamatsinoro and Bakambu have each netted twice thus far, and Skybet have the two to bag yet again here at 14/1.