As the dust settles after the second round, the landscape looks strangely unfamiliar. Defending champions, Cameroon, have gone; the hosts, Egypt, have gone; and Morocco, who dominated the tournament in the first round were sent parking by lowly Benin Republic.
So one of the quarter final pairing will see Nigeria and South Africa face off on Wednesday.
Nigeria, who face Bafana Bafana in Cairo, haven’t won the tournament since 2013 when late Stephen Keshi tinkered them to a third title, 19 years after he captained the Super Eagles to a second title.
Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has faced criticism. After the 3-2 victory over the Indomitable Lions today, probably Nigeria’s most striking result since they beat Spain 3-2 at the 1998 World Cup, even in glory he disappointed fans who had been preparing for the condemnation and ritual dismissal that traditionally follows Nigerian Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaigns.
For South Africa, their story in Egypt has been remarkable. They qualified for the second round as one of the four third placed teams with a paltry three points.
They did the unthinkable by ultimately bundling out Pharaohs of Egypt at the Almighty City of Cairo. It ended 1-0 in favour of the 1996 AFCON winners.
Now the players just want to give a present back to the country. The atmosphere in South Africa is unbelievable – people are much happier because they are getting close to the end of the war and because the national football team is in the quarter-finals. It is a fantastic story.
Spectacular or not, Bafana Bafana’s progress has prompted mass celebrations in South Africa, especially given coach Stuart Baxter’s target was simply to collect four points and ensure the team reach the second round. Now they have gone a step further and will be asking for more.