The biennial footballing fiesta that is the Africa Cup of Nations returns this weekend, as bookies’ favourites Ivory Coast look to defend their title, following a dramatic penalty shoot-out triumph over Ghana in the 2015 final.
But with Les Elephants priced at just 7/2 to retain the trophy, we think there could be better value in backing any of these three impressive dark horses – starting with the beaten finalists looking for revenge…
Ghana – (9/1)
Only Brimah Razak’s penalty miss stood between the Black Stars and continental glory back in 2015, so it’s a real surprise to see them priced up at sixth in the tournament betting, behind the likes of Gabon and Cameroon.
Unbeaten in qualifying, with four wins and two draws – including a 7-1 tonking of Mauritius – there’s massive value in backing the four-time winners (and nine-time finalists) for glory. Especially so as they defeated Ivory Coast 2-1 back in October 2015.
With the prolific Asamoah Gyan and Jordan Ayew reliable in front of goal, and just four goals conceded in their last eight competitive games, it’s hard to understand why their odds of glory aren’t about half this size. Lump on!
Mali – (18/1)
Only Senegal posted more points in qualifying than Alain Giresse’s side, who won five and drew one, chalking up a pair of victories to nil against 2015 semi-finalists Equatorial Guinea in the process.
Les Aigles’ lack of recognisable star names may explain just why they’re being underestimated by the bookies. But after wins over Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Burkina Faso also recorded during the past 12 months, they’re more than a match for any side on the continent on that form.
And with Wolverhampton Wanderers’ star Bakary Sako now boasting a goal every two games for the national side, and young Moussa Doumbia continuing to progress, anyone facing Mali in this tournament will really have their work cut out.
Burkina Faso – (33/1)
Nobody exemplified grit and belief in tournament qualifying quite like Burkina Faso did. Banou Diawara’s goal against Botswana nine minutes into stoppage time of their final qualifier snatched top spot in the group ahead of Uganda. But that’s not all…
Five of their six goals came in the 60th minute or later, with each of those going on to help the defensively solid Etalons enjoy victory. And it’s often the sides with that mix of determination, solidity and clinical finishing at the crucial time who win this tournament.
Ivory Coast scored one goal or fewer in four of their six games en route to lifting the trophy in 2015, but their tight defence saw them edge their way to glory. Don’t be too surprised if Paulo Duarte’s men do the same here.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing