This was made possible following the biggest upset seen so far in the ongoing competition where South Africa's Bafana Bafana knocked out the Atlas Lions of Morocco on Tuesday night.
Hugo Broos' men pulled off a hard-fought 2-0 victory over pre-tournament favourites Morocco in a match the North Africans lacked precision and quick decision making in the final third.
The result of that encounter in addition to the other exits of African football powerhouses like Senegal, Egypt, Algeria, and Tunisia, meant that Nigeria's Super Eagles led by coach Jose Peseiro became the highest-ranked team going into the blockbuster quarter-finals.
Super Eagles rank before the AFCON tournament
Ahead of the most prestigious football competition in Africa, the Super Eagles of Nigeria held the sixth position.
However, after Morocco's loss to South Africa Peseiro's men are now ahead of the other remaining teams: Ivory Coast, Mali, South Africa, DR Congo, Guinea, Angola, and Cape Verde.
Morocco’s defeat was particularly unexpected, given their impressive run at the World Cup last year where Walid Regragui's side got to the semi-finals.
But in an unfortunate turn of events for the Atlas Lions, goals from Evidence Makgopa and Teboho Mokoena in the second half ensured victory for the South Africans who have continued to grow in leaps and bounds in every game.
Top 6 rankings ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations
- Morocco, ranked 13th in the world and first in Africa. They exited AFCON in the Round of 16.
- Senegal, ranked 20th in the world and second in Africa. They exited AFCON in the Round of 16
- Tunisia, ranked 28th in the world and third in Africa. Got knocked out in the Group Stage
- Algeria, ranked 30th in the world and fourth in Africa. Knocked out also in the Group Stage.
- Egypt, ranked 33rd in the world and fifth in Africa. The Pharaohs suffered Round of 16 elimination.
- Nigeria, ranked 42nd in the world and sixth in Africa. They're still in the competition.
What's next in line for the Super Eagles?
The three-time Africa Cup of Nations winners will battle Angola in the first match of the quarter-finals on Friday, 2 February 2024. Kick-off is 6 pm WAT.
Nigeria got to this stage after recording a 2-0 victory over Cameroon. On the other hand, Angola thrashed Namibia 3-0 to book a showdown against the Super Eagles.
With many decades of AFCON history on the side of Nigeria, the Eagles enter this skirmish as red hot favourites to progress to the semi-finals.
However, the Angolans won't be any pushovers, as they've showcased their might and could as well cause another upset as they aim to make their first appearance in the semi-finals.
This article was most recently revised and updated 3 weeks ago