Democratic Republic of Congo sharpshooter Cedric Bakambu is relishing the chance to face giantkillers Madagascar Sunday in an Africa Cup of Nations last-16 clash in Egypt.
The countries last met in a 2017 Cup of Nations qualifier and Bakambu bagged a brace for the Leopards in a 6-1 triumph on the Indian Ocean island.
“We had struggled to defeat Madagascar in Kinshasa so it was great to go there and win so convincingly with me scoring twice,” recalled Beijing-based Bakambu.
Paul-Jose Mpoku and Yannick Bolasie, who also scored in the Antananarivo rout, are part of the DR Congo squad in Egypt.
Bakambu, who was with Spanish La Liga side Villarreal before being lured to China by a bigger salary, netted twice in a 4-0 rout of Zimbabwe last weekend that secured a last-16 place.
The 6-1 hiding was the darkest day in Malagasy football history and they have undergone a dramatic transformation, culminating in a stunning 2-0 Group B victory over Nigeria.
Among the pre-tournament outsiders, the islanders won the group while two-time former champions DR Congo scraped through as one of the best four third-place teams.
Here, AFP Sport looks at the two last-16 fixtures this Sunday with Algeria favourites to win in Cairo against Guinea, who will lack injured Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita.
Nicolas Dupuis combines coaching Madagascar with being in charge of a French lower-league club and he has lavished praise on the conquerors of Nigeria.
“I have been very proud of my players, who have been serious, organised and attentive. There is little I need to tell them,” said the 51-year-old.
Forward Faneva Andriatsima acknowledged that the mainly short, slightly-built Malagasys have often struggled to match taller, physically stronger opponents, especially from west Africa.
“We fill this physical deficit with solidarity and heart. Those are our strengths,” said the French second-tier footballer.
DR Congo were the comeback side of the group phase, recovering from two-goal defeats by Uganda and hosts Egypt to trounce Zimbabwe and squeeze through.
The biggest challenge for Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi is deflecting all the praise coming the way of him and his Desert Foxes and concentrating on a match against Guinea in Cairo.
Algeria won all three group games, scoring six goals without conceding, and were able to field a reserve side and still outclass Tanzania 3-0 having already qualified.
Midfielders Riyad Mahrez from Premier League champions Manchester City and Ismael Bennacer were included in the official group-phase team and Belmadi was named best coach.
Former Manchester City midfielder Belmadi is uncomfortable with individuals being singled out, stressing: “Football is a team sport.”
Guinea coach Paul Put is set to pick midfielder Amadou Diawara, who swapped Italian Serie A clubs this week, moving from Napoli to AS Roma in a five-year, $23.8 million (21.2 mn euros, Sh2.3 billion) deal.