Category Archives: Africa Cup of Nations

Africa Cup of Nations Final – Egypt v Cameroon Preview (5/2/17)

Egypt preview

Somehow, the Pharoah’s have made the final. They have been fairly unconvincing throughout this tournament but now have the chance to win a fourth straight African Nations Crown (when entered) which would be a fantastic achievement. The big strength of Egypt is at the back where they’ve only conceded one goal. However, a big factor to consider is they played 4 of their 5 game at the horrible Port Gentil Stadium which has a shocking pitch. I think it’s fair to say Burkina Faso should've scored more than one goal against them in the semi final, maybe Cameroon won’t be so wasteful today. Egypt perhaps haven't shown their true attacking qualities in this event, so watch out for a potential improvement in the final third. But it was worrying how tired and leggy they looked on Wednesday night and it could be a physical challenge here.

Cameroon preview

The Indomitable Lions were extremely unfancied at the start of the tournament. A number of key players weren't selected or didn't want to play for them in Gabon. But team unity has been excellent and this group of players have really worked hard for each other. I also think that coach Hugo Broos has been excellent tactically, producing a number of different gameplans to keep the opposition guessing. To shut out the trio of Gabon, Senegal & Ghana in consecutive matches is a great achievement. A number of unsung heros like goalkeeper Ondoa and big centre back Teikeu are one of the main reasons why they've done so well. Cameroon do possess some fine attacking players too though, with captain Benjamin Moukandjo a key player for them. Striker Vincent Aboubakar hasn’t been used as often as I expected, but is a pacy and potentially impactful substitute if and when required.

Conclusion & betting analysis

I totally respect Egypt, they are an extremely tough side to beat and have shown great defensive qualities in this tournament. But for me, Cameroon are the better team at the moment. They look the more complete package and in better physical condition. I think it’s fair to say Egypt have yet to face a really strong attacking team in this tournament. They certainly haven't been tested much on a better technical surface, apart from Wednesday night when Burkina Faso really should've scored a number of goals against them. I think Cameron will be more clinical and find a way to win. Therefore, backing the Indomitable Lions on a DNB handicap around the even money mark makes sense to me. I wouldn't be surprised if this match went to extra time or penalties but I just give the edge to Cameroon and I’m willing to back them to claim this trophy today.

Prediction: Egypt 1-2 Cameroon

Recommended bet 1 unit: Cameroon DNB @ 2.02 (minimum odds acceptable 1.85)

Africa Cup of Nations 3rd Place Playoff – Burkina Faso v Ghana Preview (4/2/17)

Burkina Faso preview

The Stallions suffered a heartbreaking semi final exit on penalties against Egypt. They put in a great performance over the course of the 120 mins and deserved to prevail. However, some poor finishing and a bunch of bad luck was to blame. Burkina Faso have to be praised for most of their performances in this competition. They’ve played with freedom and clearly enjoyed themselves. I think they were a real pleasant surprise and everyone should be proud of their efforts. Of course it’ll take a good effort to recover after that heartbreaking defeat, but they are a prideful nation and a third placed finish would be a very respectable outcome for them.

Ghana preview

I have called Ghana out for being a fraudulent side for most of the competition. They somehow managed to graft their way to the semi finals but finally they were called out in the semi final against Cameroon. The Black Stars simply conceded too many chances and ultimately paid the price. They looked quite leggy for most of the contest, probably a culmination of a long tough grind on some difficult pitches. I also don’t think Ghana are that good anyway. Of course, there’s some decent talent like the Ayew brothers, Wakaso and Atsu, but this certainly isn't a star studded side. This match is likely to be Avram Grant’s last in charge. But he's never been a popular choice anyway and few will shed tears on his exit.

Conclusion & betting analysis

I think there’s an awful lot to like about Burkina Faso here. For a start, they’ve had an extra 24 hours to prepare for the game, which at this stage of the competition is a massive factor. Secondly, they've been the better team in this competition anyway, clearly playing well in most matches. Ghana have rarely looked very good, only performing well in patches. I don’t think this game will mean as much to them and the mega low after being knocked out on Thursday night is sure to linger with them. I’m surprised Burkina Faso are +0.25 underdogs. This looks the wrong way around to me. I actually considered backing them DNB because this match goes straight to penalties after 90 mins. Nobody will want that to happen so we could see a frantic finale. But by that stage I think the Stallions will be leading anyway and ultimately get the job done.

Prediction: Burkina Faso 2-0 Ghana

Recommended bet 1 unit: Burkina Faso +0.25 @ 1.88 (minimum odds acceptable 1.65)

Africa Cup of Nations – Burkina Faso v Egypt Preview (1/2/17)

Burkina Faso preview

The Stallions are the ‘surprise’ team in the last four, but probably deserve their place here more than anyone. They ended up topping a fairly difficult group, before producing an excellent second half against Tunisia in the quarter finals. They seemed to play an excellent tactical game in that match, gradually getting better as the game progressed. Burkina have done without key playmakers Jonathan Pitroipa & Jonathan Zongo for the last few games, but seem to be coping alright. Other players have stepped up like Nakoulma, both Traore’s and the legendary Bance. I don't believe they can play a full 90 mins at the same level but have reserved their best for certain periods during games. It's during these moments that they’ve struck well and scored goals at the right time.

Egypt preview

The Pharoah’s have certainly looked unremarkable so far in this tournament. They’ve yet to concede a goal and won 3 of their 4 matches by an exact 1-0 scoreline. I think they have to be respected for making it this far though because the hand they've been dealt has been a poor one. All of their games have been played at the horrific Port-Gentil Stadium which has the worst pitch in the tournament by a million miles. This certainly doesn’t suit Egypt who are a strong technical side. It will be interesting to see how they play on an improved surface, it might actually bring out the beat in them. I have a feeling the Pharaohs have something in reserve that we’ve yet to see at this tournament. They are unbeaten in 23 African Nation Cup matches and have a terrific historical record in the semi finals.

Conclusion & betting analysis

Egypt have now been installed as the favourites to win this competition. However, I’m not entirely sure what they’ve done so far to deserve this accolade. In this particular contest, Hector Cuper’s side look a little bit too short on a -0.25 handicap. So far, Burkina Faso have looked like the better side and will be boosted by the fact they’ve been based at this Libreville venue all tournament. Egypt have had 24 hours less recovery time and I’m not so sure what they’ll have in their legs following a brutally tough physical group stage on an awkward surface. However, on a more positive note they should enjoy this improved pitch and it should bring out the best in their technical players. I’m going to roll the dice and back over 1.75 goals. This line has covered in every single Burkina Faso match so far and I think Egypt have more to give. This is a risk because a semi final in any major competition could easily end in a tight 0-0 , but at these sort of odds I’m willing to give it a go.

Prediction: Burkina Faso 2-2 Egypt

Recommended bet 1 unit: Over 1.75 goals @ 1.89 (minimum odds acceptable 1.70)

Africa Cup of Nations – Senegal v Cameroon Preview (28/1/17)

Senegal preview

The Lions of Teranga were my idea of the potential winners of this tournament before a ball was kicked and my opinion hasn’t changed. They oozed class in the group stages, creating so many chances and looking like they could score at will. Defensively, there were a few question marks and perhaps some better teams might have taken advantage. But one thing we do know is that Senegal can outscore anyone if required and lean back on the likes of Sadio Mane to deliver the goods. Aliou Cisse’s men even had the luxury of resting all starters for the final group game. So everyone has had a nice rest and even the substitutes have had a full 90 mins under their belt to gain match fitness. Everything seems to be in fine working order for the newly installed tournament favourites.Probably the only team that can beat them themselves, should they feel the pressure mentally.

Cameroon preview

It would’ve been a cruel way to go out, but Cameroon were a post and save away from losing in the last minute to Gabon on the final group game. Defeat would’ve seen them exit the tournament but it would've been harsh because the Indomitable Lions were probably the best team in Group A overall. Somehow, it became a tough slog to make it through, a few chances missed here and there would’ve been to blame. Cameroon have impressed me from an offensive point of view in this event and possess dangerous players like Moukandjo, Bassagog & Aboubakar. There is a doubt whether Bassagog will be fit in time for this game and missing him would be a blow due to his good performances so far.

Conclusion & betting analysis

The way both these two teams play is lights out and attacking football. I don’t expect much to change here unless the occasion gets to each set of players. It is a big game but the strength of each outfit is in attack, not at the back. The first bet I like is Senegal on a -0.25 line. I rate them as the better side and with a full week of rest under their belt, this should aid them even more. Cameroon have just looked too soft in places and I expect someone like Sadio Mane and the opposition cavalry to take advantage. Cameroon should be able to fight fire with fire though and I expect them to score here. Senegal were lucky to keep a couple of clean sheets against Tunisia & Zimbabwe. Their ‘reserve’ team shipped goals facing Algeria and this is just the way Senegal play, wide open at times. Over 2 goals looks a really generous price close to the 2.08 mark. How can this line be so low when you consider how both have played in this tournament. This should be a wide open affair containing numerous chances so I’ll happily hit the over button here.

Prediction: Senegal 3-1 Cameroon

Recommended bet 1 unit: Senegal -0.25 @ 1.70 (minimum odds acceptable 1.65)

Recommended bet 1 unit: Over 2 goals @ 2.08 (minimum odds acceptable 1.85)

Africa Cup of Nations – Burkina Faso v Tunisia Preview (28/1/17)

Burkina Faso preview

Draws against Cameroon and Gabon ultimately proved crucial for Burkina and a victory against Guinea Bissau secured their place as group winners. I think they’ve been good to watch in this tournament and have tried to get on the front foot as much as possible. Perhaps they should’ve scored more goals and in a game like this might need to be more clinical. Key playmaker Jonathan Pitroipa misses the rest of the tournament and Jonathan Zongo is out too. It’s just a case of other players stepping up to the plate. The two Traore brothers have looked quite good and Prince Nakoulma has been lively on the wings too. Burkina have threat on the counter attack and can’t be underestimated.

Tunisia preview

Perhaps the Eagles of Carthage have been the big surprise of the tournament so far. They lost against Senegal in the opening group game but dealt with this setback well. In that aforementioned game, it looked like they were too soft, lacking both physically and mentally. However, a much improved performance against Algeria and then an easy win against Zimbabwe has turned around their fortunes. It’s been noticeable how dangerous they’ve looked as a unit going forwards. The likes of Naim Sliti, & Youssef Msakni have especially been crucial towards their success. Tunisia are a good all round unit though and they have a top class defender in great form as well, Aymen Abdennour.

Conclusion & betting analysis

I personally rate Tunisia as the better side and I think they’ll win today. Burkina Faso have done well to make it this far but they really needed to be at full strength from this point onwards. Their defence should have conceded more goals and Tunisia look like the sort of side who will take advantage. I like the idea of backing the North African side on a -0.25 handicap around the 1.80 mark. At worst, I think they’ll take the game into extra time. This also feels like the sort of game which will end over. Both teams have demonstrated strong attacking tendencies. Neither is afraid to ‘go for it’ and the only danger is if everyone suddenly feels the pressure and tightens up. But with a goal line of 2.0 I can't really resist. Somehow, every Burkina game has contained exactly two goals this tournament, but realistically all of their contests should've gone over. It’s the same story with Tunisia and I expect a fairly open game overall.

Prediction: Burkina Faso 1-3 Tunisia

Recommended bet 1 unit: Tunisia -0.25 @ 1.82 (minimum odds acceptable 1.70)

Recommended bet 1 unit: Over 2 goals @ 1.90 (minimum odds acceptable 1.75)

Africa Cup of Nations – Uganda v Mali Preview (25/1/17)

Mali preview

The Eagles haven’t actually played badly in this tournament so far. They were the better team against Egypt and then battered Ghana in the second half. However, the end result is just one point from those two fixtures and they’ve yet to register a goal. It’s now highly unlikely they’ll qualify for the quarter finals because the other group game will probably end a draw. All Mali can do is at least win to force the pressure on Egypt. They deserve a victory out of this campaign and will be pleased to move away from the Port- Gentil pitch. Mali are a really strong physical team who seem to get better as each match goes on. Their stamina isn’t to be underestimated and especially as the match is played at 1,000 feet high then this could be a key factor in the second half.

Uganda preview

The Cranes have competed reasonably well but ultimately fallen short in both group games. The late goal conceded against Egypt has given them no hope of qualifying and all they have left to play for is pride. Uganda are a prideful nation though and certainly won't lie down. There is no way they’ll want to be the only side in the competition who end up with no group points. This is a team that look pretty toothless in attack and goalscoring isn’t a strength. Maybe with the pressure off a bit they could be better in the final third but I wouldn't bank on it. Coach Milutin Sredojevic is reported to be considering his options after this tournament and is strongly linked to the Ghana job which will be free following Avram Grant’s upcoming resignation. Uganda will fight hard until the end but I wonder if this might be a physical test too far for them.

Conclusion & betting analysis

I think both teams will be pleased to leave behind the shocker of a pitch at Port-Gentil. This surface in the city of Oyem isn’t that much better, but at least some form of technical football can be played on it. This will probably suit Mali and the likes of Bakary Sako & Sambou Yatabare can get into the game more. I like Mali to win this one. I just think they are the better outfit and have been really unlucky to only pick up one point so far. They have to win to stand any chance of qualification, and although it's unlikely to be enough they can't do any more apart from collect three points. Mali are a strong physical team and I expect them to dominate the last 30 mins especially. The match is played at a slight altitude, close to 1,000 metres and the fitter side will have an edge. That has to be Mali in my opinion. We’ve seen all the other smaller teams desperately struggle in this round, each losing by a two goal margin. Uganda will probably suffer the same fate. I’m going to back Mali on a -0.75 handicap. At worst, I think they’ll win the game outright, but I think there’s a decent chance of a 2-0 or 3-0 win here. I wouldn’t be surprised if the game ended over 2.5 but with Uganda perhaps struggling to contribute in this department I’ll leave that market alone.

Prediction: Uganda 0-2 Mali

Recommended bet 1 unit: Mali -0.75 @ 2.02 (minimum odds acceptable 1.85)

Africa Cup of Nations – Egypt v Ghana Preview (25/1/17)

Egypt preview

The equation is simple for the Pharoah’s, avoid defeat and they’ll qualify for the knockout phase. If they lose, then Mali would potentially overtake them. Egypt would of course win the group if they beat Ghana but there’s speculation that nobody wants this to happen. Egypt have desperately suffered on the Port-Gentil pitch which is the worst in the tournament. It really hinders technical sides and the Pharaoh's know they’d struggle in a quarter final here. A draw is the perfect result for Egypt but at the same time would they dare risk trying to ‘avoid’ winning the contest? Left back Mohamed Abdel Shafy is rated doubtful for the contest and it must be remembered that goalkeeper Essam El Hadary is their only remaining fit goalkeeper at this tournament. The legendary 44 year old is closing in 150 caps for his country.

Ghana preview

The Black stars are safely through to the quarter finals, the only question remains if they win the group of finish second. As aforementioned with Egypt, there has been some speculation that Ghana would prefer to finish second and thus avoid having to play at Port Gentil in the next round. In many ways, coach Avram Grant has the luxury of rotating the team as much as he wants. If they lose the game, so what, it might actually benefit them! Ghana haven’t impressed me too much but they have to be given some respect for grinding out a couple of 1-0 wins. On both occasions, they scored fairly early in the first half and managed to hold on. It’s been noticeable how much the Black Stars have struggled in the last 20 mins as they’ve got deeper and deeper. That isn't much of an issue here though with no pressure on their shoulders.

Conclusion & betting analysis

This is a game nobody wants to win, Ghana might want to lose it but Egypt want a draw exactly! Work this one out! This is such a tough match to bet on and the bookies are expecting a draw, with odds close to the evens mark. In all truth, there’s a very good chance of that occurring and 0-0 has to be a major contender. The pitch here at Port Gentil is awful and seriously limits goals. But it seems to be getting even worse with all sorts of weird bounces so it’s possible something weird might happen like a strange backpass resulting in a goal. I simply can’t be betting on this game with any big stakes. For those who like small punts then no goalscorer might be worth a nibble, but I’d say the best option is probably to avoid getting involved here.

Prediction: 0-0

Recommended bet: None

Africa Cup of Nations – Togo v DR Congo Preview (24/1/17)

Togo preview

Emmanuel Adebayor’s men held out for a comfortable 0-0 against Ivory Coast, but struggled desperately facing Morocco last time out. They lost 1-3 but could've gone down by an even bigger margin. The defence was all at sea, conceding a lot of chances and looked really gassed come the end of that encounter. The Sparrow Hawks somehow have to pick themselves up ahead of a must win clash against DRC. A victory is the minimum requirement to have a chance of qualifying, but they might need to win by more than a one goal margin in order to make the quarter finals.

DR Congo preview

The Leopards have done extremely well to obtain four points from their supposed toughest two fixtures. Now the hard work is done, they must finish the job by at least drawing with Togo. A point would be enough to see them qualify for the quarter finals, although there is a scenario where a one goal loss could potentially be enough as well. DRC have proved to be a well balanced unit, capable of both defending and attacking in good spells. This is a side that doesn’t seem to rely on one standout star, which can often be a good thing. Junior Kabananga has surprisingly led the way for them in the goalscoring department, netting in both fixtures.

Conclusion & betting analysis

The first thing to say about this match is that it’s being hosted at Port-Gentil, not the venue where either of these teams played their previous group matches. The pitch here is shockingly poor and has contained few goals. It’s hard to play proper football on the surface so I expect a lot of long balls and direct style played. A lot of crosses could be sent into the area which spells bad news for Togo keeper Kossi Agassa, who was awful in the previous round. He has had his home vandalised back in Togo and is reportedly shaken. I worry about the whole mentality of the Togo team really and physically they could struggle too. DRC are definitely the most likely winners but I'm reluctant to back them due to the requirement of only needing a draw. Logically, you’d think this match open up too but I’m not willing to risk the overs on this shocking surface. So overall, this’ll be a no bet match for me.

Prediction: Togo 1-2 DR Congo

Recommended bet: None

Africa Cup of Nations – Morocco v Ivory Coast Preview (24/1/17)

Morocco preview

After a pretty poor showing in their first match when they looked all huff and puff with no end product, the Atlas Lions roared back into life thanks to a 3-1 victory against Togo. Their destiny is now in their own hands and a draw would be enough to secure progression into the quarter finals. Taking all three points might even see them win the group but standing in their way is Ivory Coast, in what is a straightforward knockout match. It must be said that Morocco have badly missed playmakers like Boufal and Belhanda but finally some other players stood up to be counted against Togo. Their fast attacks going forward were impressive and you'd think if the Ivory Coast get desperate then the opportunity will be there for Morocco. Herve Renard’s men can’t afford to be too timid and sit too deep otherwise it could spell trouble.

Ivory Coast preview

So far, the pre tournament favourites have flattered to deceive. Just two draws facing weaker nations simply isn’t good enough for a team of this stature, but their destiny is still in their own hands at least. The Elephants know that a win and only a win would see them through to the quarter finals. It’s now or never and it’s time for their big stars to deliver. I thought the Ivory Coast were much improved against DR Congo last time out. They conceded two sloppy goals but on another day they’d have probably won that game. The combination of strikers didn’t work in their opening fixture facing Togo but with Wilfried Bony upfront it seems they had a focal point, and he caused a lot of problems. If an improvement is maintained here then there’s no reason why they can’t win.

Conclusion & betting analysis

This is a real heavyweight contest between two of the big nations at this tournament. One of them is definitely going out so it’s all to play for! In terms of an actual winner, it's so difficult to predict and it all depends who takes their chances. I have to think it’ll be an open game though. Côte D’Ivoire are likely to come out of the traps quickly and assert themselves on the game by getting an early goal. As soon as a goal is scored here, the other team simply has to respond at some stage which should increase the chances of more goals being scored. Therefore, the bet I like is over 2 goals. Around the 1.85 mark this seem pretty generous. Both teams have strong defensive capabilities, but at some stage one of them at least will have to go for it. We saw in the previous matchday that both opened up much more, wanting to play attacking football. Hopefully the same will happen again. If the big stars of Ivory Coast perform then I have to favour the Elephants to win, but not with much confidence.

Prediction: Morocco 1-2 Ivory Coast

Recommended bet 1 unit: Over 2 goals @ 1.85 (minimum odds acceptable 1.70)

Africa Cup of Nations – Zimbabwe v Tunisia Preview (23/1/17)

Zimbabwe preview

The ‘Warriors’ put up a very good fight against Algeria, drawing 2-2 and they were less than 10 minutes away from beating their illustrious opponents in that fixture. However, Zimbo came back down to earth facing Senegal, losing 2-0 and in all truth they could have conceded way more if Senegal had finished chances properly. It was a concerning performance and the amount of times their defence got blown open was ridiculous. Zimbabwe still have a chance of qualifying though if they beat Tunisia and Algeria fail against Senegal. So all they can do is try to get victory. Zimbabwe have played really positively all tournament and I expect that to continue here. They have nothing to lose and will go down fighting.

Tunisia preview

It was a good comeback from the North African side to beat their Algerian rivals 2-1 last time out. Tunisia had shown encouraging signs against Senegal in their opener, despite losing 0-2. They managed to defend much better and actually converted chances in the previous encounter. Now their destiny is in their own hands. A win or a draw would be enough to qualify for the quarter finals and if they can’t do that against Zimbabwe then they deserve to go home early! Despite only needing a draw, I expect Tunisia to take this match by the horns and look to get on top. They can’t be too timid and the only time I’d expect them to try and hold out is in the last ten minutes, should they need to grind out a result.

Conclusion & betting analysis

This is another match I anticipate being wide open. Zimbabwe play in this sort of style and like to go pushing forwards in search of goals. This leaves plenty of holes at the back though and Tunisia have the sort of fast counter attackers who can potentially take advantage. I don’t actually think Zimbabwe will get massively outplayed in between both boxes, but at the crucial ends of each field is where Tunisia will have an advantage. You’d expect the Eagles of Carthage to be more clinical, whilst at the back snuffle out opportunities with the likes of rock solid defender Aymen Abdennour. Overall, I expect enough opportunities to be created for three goals to be scored. This is why I like the idea of backing over 2.25 @ around the 1.90 mark. Tunisia will probably win but because only a draw is required, I’m reluctant to back them at fairly short odds.

Prediction: Zimbabwe 1-2 Tunisia

Recommended bet 1 unit: Over 2.25 goals @ 1.91 (minimum odds acceptable 1.70)