Equatorial Guinea vs Congo | Saturday 17 January | Bata | 18:00
Hosts Equatorial Guinea will kick-start the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations against Congo. These nations are probably the two least respected sides coming into the tournament, but both pose serious threats. Equatorial Guinea will have the crucial home support behind them while Congo managed to qualify for the showpiece ahead of Nigeria.
To Win (90mins)
Equatorial Guinea 12/10
Having earned their place at AFCON 2015 as host nation following Morocco's surprise withdraw just a few months before the tournament, Equatorial Guinea will be hoping for a repeat of their 2012 showing where they co-hosted the tournament with Gabon and made their way to the knockout phase of the competition. Just a month before the tournament they decided to sack their Spanish coach and rope in Argentine Esteban Becker, who led the women’s team to the 2012 Nations Cup title. A lack of positive results by the national side in the last two years, as well as two friendly losses in warm-up games in Portugal last week against Vilafranquense and Benfica's B team, seemed to have made up the national association’s mind. Due to a lack of talent in the country Equatorial Guinea have tracked down many players who were born in Spain - and ply their trade in the lower leagues there - but are of Equatorial Guinean descent. They are the lowest ranked nation in the tournament but will be hoping that their home support can be the decisive factor against bigger teams.
Congo will come into the tournament with great confidence after qualifying for the AFCON ahead of Nigeria and Sudan to finish two points behind group winners South Africa. The Red Devils put in some sterling performances along the way, starting off with their 3-2 success over the Super Eagles, and two comfortable victories against Sudan. Congo don’t have a good record in the Nations Cup but do boast the honour of lifting the title in 1972, beating Cameroon in the final. Like many of the AFCON squads, Congo boast quite a few players who ply their trade in some of Europe’s top leagues. Almeria forward Thievy Bifouma headlines the list. Despite being 22-years-old, Bifouma has ample experience in the footballing world, plying his trade in Spain for the last four years since moving from Strasbourg’s youth academy in France and also having a short loan spell in England with West Bromwich Albion.
VERDICT: Congo 23/10
The hosts have played eleven games in the last two years, winning just once and losing eight times. Congo are priced up at a phenomenal 23/10 and after proving their steel during the qualifiers should be backed for the win at that price.