Can on-pitch action lift latest Nations Cup cloud?
For the second time in as many editions, the Africa Cup of Nations has been overshadowed by shocking football-related deaths on the continent.
As in Angola two years ago, where Togo's team bus was ambushed by separatist rebels, the Egyptian tragedy has an overtly political feel underpinning it - with many far closer involved than I discussing the divisions (e.g. rebellion-backing Al Ahly fans taking on a resentful police force) that prompted the appalling scenes.
The tragedy also resulted in the retirement of an African footballing legend - Mohamed Aboutrika - the Al Ahly midfielder who won two Nations Cup titles (scoring the winner in the 2008 final) for Egypt and would have had three had he not missed the last tournament through injury.
But the question of who will replace the Pharaohs as kings of Africa is still open to healthy debate after a first round that contained some incredible shocks, wonderful matches and outstanding goals.
Gabon fans celebrate their last-gasp win over Morocco, a result which took the Panthers to the Nations Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1996
All three could be found in last week's victory for co-hosts Equatorial Guinea over Senegal, as the lowest-ranked side to contest a Nations Cup in living memory dumped one of the most fancied teams out of the competition - with Kily's 25-yard drive, four minutes into injury time, a suitably stunning goal for a shock of this magnitude (one which, I know from the flood of texts received, was joyously celebrated on Tyneside).
It barely needed repeating yet it was further evidence of the extraordinary morale-boosting power of home advantage, and not - on this occasion - because debatable refereeing results were going the hosts' way.
The second stand-out tie involved the other co-hosts as Gabon beat dark horses Morocco in surely the match of the finals so far, with not just the shock of the referee awarding a penalty against the Panthers in the 90th minute (kudos to you, Mr Bakary Gassama) but then the exquisite free-kick that won the game 3-2 in the 98th minute to knock out Eric Gerets's men.
Unlike the Senegalese, who did less than a holidaying sloth on a slow day, the Moroccans did at least have some players who left their mark - most notably, the excellent duo of number 10 Younes Belhanda and captain Houssine Kharja.
They didn't deserve to be going home after the first round, just like Burkina Faso midfielder Alain Traore (what a left peg), Manucho of Angola (who seems back to his best) and Guinea's effervescent midfielder Ibrahima Traore.
Others are staying, such as Zambian duo Chris Katongo and Emmanuel Mayuka, and their lively Zambian side take on Sudan in Saturday's first quarter-final in Bata.
History has been made for a handful of teams at these finals, with Libya winning their first Nations Cup game in 30 years, but that seems a mere slip compared to the 42 Sudan fans had to wait between their triumph in the 1970 final itself and beating Burkina Faso on Monday.
Their quarter-final place was barely foreseen, even among Sudanese fans themselves, who took to the streets in impromptu celebration afterwards, so coach Mazda can feel extreme pride for leading his entirely domestic based squad to the last eight.
This Zambian side seems to fire under the guidance of coach Herve Renard, whose devotion to his job was clear to see as the Frenchman went livid with his technical advisors despite the Chipolopolo is leading co-hosts Equatorial Guinea on Monday - with Renard later slamming his side's attacking instincts.
Whatever the root cause, the Chipolopolo are the opposite to the Senegalese - a team that is more than the sum of its parts and where teamwork is key.
Zambia captain Chris Katongo celebrates his match-winner against Equatorial Guinea in flying fashion, as Emmanuel Mayuka looks on
In Saturday's second game, an Ivory Coast side that has been playing well within itself takes on the co-hosts in the biggest game in the history of Equatoguinean men's football.
The bad news for the National Lightning is that the game will be played in the 15,000-capacity Malabo stadium, whose open nature is no match for the atmosphere generated in the bowl-like Bata stadium, which can host over 35,000 fans.
The Elephants have yet to get out of second gear so will they click up against the co-hosts or can Javier Balboa, Juvenal and Thierry Fidjeu spring an even bigger surprise?
The other co-hosts kick off the action on Sunday, when Gabon will be very much at home in Libreville's Stade de l'Amitie, the arena which will host the final on Sunday week.
Panthers fans will once again look to the forward line of star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, veteran Daniel Cousin and the experienced Eric Mouloungui to deliver the goods, against a defence which has been superbly marshalled by captain - and Panathinaikos centre-back - Cedric Kante so far.
But the tie of the round could come in Sunday's last quarter-final when Ghana take on 2004 champions Tunisia. Organisers in Gabon have said they will hand out free tickets for this match in an attempt to avoid thousands of empty seats but then again, nearly half the population of Franceville - the birth place of the ruling Bongo family - could fit into the 25,000-seater stadium by all accounts.
Youssef Msakni has proved a real dangerman, as Morocco and Niger can attest, and his creativity has lit up a Tunisian side that can look pedestrian without his flair. But at the back, Karim Hagui struggled against the power and pace of Niger's Moussa Maazou so Asamoah Gyan will fancy his chances of taking him on - but is the Black Star fully fit?
Ghanaian fans may not be too bothered if the midfield can keep producing goals of the quality of Emmanuel Agyemang Badu against Guinea - the strike of the tournament so far for me, although team-mate Gyan, Equatorial Guinea's Kily, Gabon's Bruno-Zita Mbanangoye, Manucho, Msakni and dozens of you might disagree.
Two years ago, the Cabinda tragedy cast a huge shadow over the Nations Cup and seemed to affect some of the football played thereafter. So as the continent's football tries to disperse the latest cloud over it, can the quarter-finalists find the African game's true voice on the pitch and speak most eloquently from there? Let's hope they can.