The final international tournament to begin this summer does so on Friday when the cream of African football get together in Egypt for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, that part of the world’s equivalent to the European Championship.
African football has showcased itself on the global stage in recent times and is getting better all the time. Cameroon were the flagship for this part of the world two years ago when they won the tournament and they will be looking to put together a decent defence of the crown.
2017 – Cameroon
2015 – Ivory Coast
2013 – Nigeria
2012 – Zambia
2010 – Egypt
2008 – Egypt
2006 – Egypt
2004 – Tunisia
2002 – Cameroon
2000 – Cameroon
It has all changed in terms of the format this year. The en vogue thing is to expand these tournaments and that is exactly what happened to this one. 16 teams have become 24 and of course the biggest difference is this tournament is being played in the English summer from now on and not the winter.
The 24 teams have been placed into groups of four where the top two in each after everyone has played each other progress along with the best four third placed sides. The knockout stage now consists of a round of 16 as well as the quarter finals onwards. The champions will be crowned in Cairo on July 19.
Groups A + B
Many judges believe that Egypt and Nigeria are the best two sides in African football at the minute and they headline the top two groups. Tournament hosts Egypt have the task of getting past Zimbabwe, DR Congo and Uganda if they are going to make it into the knockout stages while Nigeria have the interesting tests of Burundi, Guinea and a Madagascar outfit who the other three would probably be wise not to underestimate at any stage.
Groups C + D
There always a couple of tasty looking groups in major tournaments and in this one it is the groups C and D which are headlined by Senegal and the Ivory Coast but both could have their work cut out to make it through. Senegal go up against an Algeria side who could be underrated while Kenya and Tanzania make up their group while Morocco are huge looking dangers in Group D where Ivory Coast sit. The other two teams in that section are South Africa and Namibia.
Groups E + F
Tunisia and the defending champions Cameroon head up the other two groups in the competition. Both sides should come through but the race for second could be interesting. Mali are the favourites to progress behind Tunisia in Group E with Angola and Mauritania the other teams in it. Ghana are the dangers to Cameroon in Group F although they might just be beyond their peak as a side who can contend which will be of the interest of Guinea-Bissau and Benin.
For my outright bet I don’t really want to be in the same half as Egypt come the knockout stage and on the assumption that the hosts win their group the two I’ve picked out are Morocco and Algeria and it is the former I’m siding with pretty much on the basis that they have Herve Renard in charge, a man who knows how to win this tournament having taken nations such as Zambia to success in it.
Of course it will be about the players and in Mehdi Behatia, Younes Belhanda and Hakim Ziyech they have three standout players across the pitch. They have a nice mix of youth and experience, a solid defensive core and plenty of skilful players in attack so they have a whole lot going for them in this tournament. Their two friendly defeats in warm up for this is a slight concern but if Ziyech has a good tournament then it is hard to see Morocco not having one. At 12/1 they are the pick for me.
It makes sense to have a small bet on Hakim Ziyech to be the top scorer in the tournament as he is one of the stars of African football at the present time but I will go with someone else as well as I look to take on a market which contains a lot of players but maybe not so many possible winners two-handed.
I’ve already mentioned that I expect Algeria to go well and with the creative players in behind Baghdad Bounedjah there is every reason to believe he should be hot in this tournament, especially in an open group where I fancy a few goals will be scored. Even in this expanded tournament we might only be looking at five goals to get the job done here and with nine in 21 caps the Al-Sadd star should go well. He looks to be the main choice ahead of Islam Slimani at the present time and with chances put on a plate he shouldn’t be far away when the Golden Boot is given out.
There are a couple of picks I like in the groups for this tournament as well. I’m happy to be on Algeria at the prices in Group C. I get that Senegal look strong but I’m not convinced there is as much between these two sides as is being made out here. Senegal will miss Sadio Mane for their opening match which could be a blow to them and if this comes down to goal difference then the value would already be on Algeria. I was close to taking Algeria outright but I’m happy to be on them to win this group.
Angola are back in the Africa Cup of Nations and are going under the radar but the 14/1 on them to win a group which lacks a true standout side is a shade big to me. Tunisia were probably the seeds everyone wanted, not because they are no good but they lack the number of players that hurt teams that other sides have. Mali will be competitive in this section but you would think Angola are also-rans going by the prices. I don’t think they are. I think they’ll offer plenty in this section and a double figure price in what may well be a three horse race with Mauritania, a side Angola beat 4-1 at home in qualifying for this, potentially out of their depth at tournament level, is just plain daft.
Back Morocco to win Africa Cup of Nations (e/w) for a 2/10 stake at 13.00 with BetVictor (1/2 1-2)
Back H.Ziyech Top Goalscorer (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with Betway (1/4 1-4)
Back Angola to win Group E for a 1/10 stake at 15.00 with Betway
Back Algeria to win Group C for a 3/10 stake at 2.63 with Betfair
Back them here:
Back B.Bounedjah Top Goalscorer (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with Bet365 (1/4 1-4)