The 32nd edition African Cup of Nations kicks off on Friday. It’s the first edition of the competition with 24 teams, and Infogol’s boffins have built a sophisticated model using expected goals, world rankings and recent results to estimate the probabilities for the tournament, which should allow us to provide a few value bets for you.
Here’s how the groups breakdown according to the number-crunchers…
Egypt are the headline act in Group A, and that isn’t a surprise given they’re at home and possess the 2017 and 2018 African Footballer of the Year, Mohamed Salah. He’s carrying the hopes of the nation on home soil, and although they didn’t give a good account of themselves in the 2018 World Cup, he shouldn’t disappoint in this group, and can lead his side into the knockouts.
DR Congo have a few recognisable names; Yannick Bolasie, Britt Assombalonga, Cédric Bakambu and Jacques Maghoma, and could pose a threat to Egypt with their attacking talent, but aren’t as sturdy as the hosts. Uganda and Zimbabwe make up Group A, with Uganda qualifying from an easy group, while Zimbabwe qualified ahead of DR Congo, winning and drawing against them, so may fancy their chances of pipping them here.
Egypt are rightly favourites to win the group, and the 4/9 (69%) on offer for them to do so actually represents good value, with the Infogol model giving them a 74% chance of doing it. DR Congo are ranked next best, with a 77% chance of finishing in the top two, while it’s likely that Uganda (15% of top two finish) and Zimbabwe (12%) will be playing for one of the best records of the third-placed teams.
Three-time winners Nigeria are fancied to have a good tournament. The likes of Wilfred Ndidi, Samuel Chukwueze, Alex Iwobi, Ahmed Musa and Odion Ighalo provide give them a great chance of going all the way, and make them favourites in Group B. Guinea have Liverpool’s Naby Keïta as their driving force, and were unbeaten in qualifying, pipping the Ivory Coast to top spot, so shouldn’t be underestimated either.
Burundi and Madagascar are the other two teams in Group B. Neither have played in the competition before, so they’re an unknown quantity at this level, even if former Premier League striker Saido Berahino leads the line for Burundi.
Nigeria are deserved favourites to win the group (1/2 – 67%), with the Infogol model giving them a 65% chance of coming out on top, and Guinea are justified second favs as well based on the model, but there is no value in backing them to upset Nigeria. Madagascar and Burundi will more than likely need to beat each other to have a chance of qualifying as one of the best third-placed teams.
It’s no shock Senegal are favoured to win their section given how impressive they were at the 2018 World Cup and the players they have at their disposal. Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyaté, M’Baye Niang, Sadio Mané, Keita Baldé and Ismaïla Sarr provide Senegal with great stability and attacking threat. On paper, they’ve arguably the best team in the competition.
Algeria also have some notable players, none more so than Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez, who will be looking to help Algeria win their second AFCON title. Kenya and Tanzania make up the group, with both considerable outsiders.
Senegal should win the group, though the 8/13 (62%) on offer doesn’t represent much value (IG – 59%), and neither does the 13/8 (38%) about Algeria (IG – 34%), but both are expected to qualify.
After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Ivory Coast need a big tournament. They have some very well-known players, but are they a group of individuals or a team? There’s no question that any of Nicolas Pépé, Wilfried Zaha or Franck Kessié could win a game on their own.
Morocco performed well in the World Cup without getting results, but the way they approached their matches and the way that they played earned a lot of plaudits.
South Africa have a great togetherness in their squad but lack quality, and the same can be said for Namibia, who are expected to finish bottom of Group D.
The Elephants are 5/4 (44.4%) to win this group, though that doesn’t represent value (IG – 13/10), and the same can be said for Morocco (bookies 6/4 – 40%), with the Infogol model rating their chances as only 33% of winning Group D. South Africa won’t go down without a fight (IG – 23%), while Namibia will more than likely finish bottom.
Tunisia were in England’s World Cup group in 2018, and they’ll be expected to come out on top of this foursome, but Mali are a dangerous team too, headed by talented Porto striker Moussa Marega. Angola and Mauritania make up Group E, and both were in the same qualification group so will know each other well. The latter of the two are appearing in their first ever AFCON tournament, but both a have a chance of advancing.
The Infogol model says Tunisia are correctly priced up at 4/5 and should be backed to win this group. Mali have a 34% chance of winning the group, with the 7/5 (42%) not representing value. Angola and Mauritania are huge outsiders here according to both the bookies and the Infogol model, but one of them could spring a surprise. They’ll also be in the reckoning for one of the four third-placed qualifiers.
Ghana and Cameroon have a combined nine AFCON titles between them, and both will fancy their chances of adding to the tally here. The Ghanaians failed to make it to Russia last year. This is chance to show they’re better than that, but their build-up to the finals hasn’t gone to plan, losing to Namibia and drawing with South Africa in recent friendlies.
Cameroon, now managed by Clarence Seedorf, have some good attacking players at their disposal, but defensively are vulnerable. They do, however, have one of the best goalkeepers in the competition, André Onana, to bail them out.
Benin and Guinea-Bissau have the tough task of trying to finish above these two African giants, but should struggle to do so as they are a long way behind their opponents. The Black Stars are favourites to finish top of Group F, with the Infogol model giving them a 56% chance of doing so, followed by Cameroon, who have a 38% chance.
Benin and Guinea-Bissau will more than likely be playing to qualify as one of the best third-placed teams.