And then there were four. All good things in life come in fours, you know: directions; horsemen; classical elements; quadrants; seasons; card suits; decent games of football that Mesut Ozil plays in any given season.
Now, we have the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations, too. It’s been somewhat of a rollercoaster to this point, with four relatively large powerhouses of African football contesting for the title at this point. Bar Egypt, who would have been pre-tournament favourites simply because of Mo Salah and certainly not because of their stellar World Cup display, bowed out in some fashion to South Africa in an absolute shocker in the last sixteen.
This tournament has generally had everything you’d want except for properly choreographed dance move celebrations that the African nations have become famous for on the big stage. Oh well. Maybe next time.
Senegal v Tunisia – 5pm: Back Senegal @ Evens
I’m not sure any nation has been as consistent in their performances as Senegal and they very much look the best unit to this point. Sadio Mane is in form and even when he’s not scoring, his link-up play doesn’t seem hampered by playing with players who don’t possess the technical ability that he does.
It’s quite ironic that Mo Salah was supposed to carry Egypt to glory in a grandiose fashion, yet his Liverpool teammate, who is far less assuming, looks like he might be the one to do it, in a far more dignified manner. Now, many will argue that their loss to Algeria in the group stages can’t mean they’re favourites, but a favourable draw in the knockouts probably means they’re operating at 50% and they have more to give.
Tunisia will be very much up against it here, and we think Senegal will have too much for them ultimately, but you wouldn’t be surprised to see them being beaten by the odd goal.
Algeria v Nigeria – 8pm: Back Algeria @ 7/5
I’m surprised Algeria’s price is so big here. Now, they’re still worthy favourites, but I’d have made them a shorter price to win here than for Senegal to beat Tunisia.
Algeria were my pre-tournament favourites for this, and I’m not changing now. There’s quality all over the park, with Mandi in central defence, Feghouli and Mahrez in midfield, with the clinical Boundjah up top. Their penalty shootout victory over the Ivory Coast doesn’t really tell the full story as a box score, either. Yes, they were brought to 120 minutes plus extras, but Boundjah missed a penalty that would have sealed it, as well as them enjoying 58% of the ball throughout the course of the game.
No side are better in possession than the Algerians, and Nigeria have too many good technical players to try and not get on the ball. Not only will this be a cracking semi-final, it’ll also be a predictable semi-final, which is good for your wallet.
Algeria can overcome Nigeria comfortably enough in this.