The highly anticipated 2017 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off on Saturday with hosts Gabon taking on Guinea-Bissau in what promises to be a cracking opening contest. Club football worldwide will continue, (excluding Africa) but, without the likes of their African stars of course.
The AFCON looks set to go down to the wire - and on the betting front, Ivory Coast are favourites to win the tournament at 7/2 but I fancy Egypt to claim the cup at a tasty 9/1. If you looking for more value, stay tuned and find out who’s worth backing in the opening round of fixtures.
Saturday 14 January
Gabon 9/20 | Draw 3/1 | Guinea-Bissau 6/1
Tournament hosts Gabon were disappointing in their build up to the 2017 AFCON. Their last eight matches in all competitions saw them claim just one victory, suffering four defeats and enduring three draws in their last three matches. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is without a doubt their most dangerous player and his teammates will look to him to provide that touch of quality to get them over the finishing line.
Guinea-Bissau - with the odds stacked against them – managed to qualify for the AFCON ahead of the likes of Congo, Zambia and Kenya, topping their qualifying group with three wins, two losses and one draw from six matches. It took discipline, hard work and an outstanding team performance in each clash to make it to this stage and Djurtus will know they will have to be at their very best to pull off an upset here.
I believe Guinea-Bissau will prove themselves to be no pushovers – just as they did in the qualifying round. Nonetheless, with home advantage Gabon are tipped to do enough to bag maximum points.
Burkina Faso 3/1 | Draw 21/10 | Cameroon 1/1
We close off the opening day with an eye-catching matchup between Burkina Faso and Cameroon. The Stallions advanced out of the qualifying round with an impressive four wins from six matches, going down just once. However, they will have to play their socks off if they are to upset the applecart here.
Cameroon breezed through the qualifying round unbeaten with four wins and two draws from six matches. The Indomitable Lions have plenty of quality players among their ranks and have won the last two meetings against their opponents. However, a tight affair is on the cards and the draw looks a likely result.
Sunday 15 January
Algeria 11/20 | Draw 28/10 | Zimbabwe 11/2
Algeria and Zimbabwe will open proceedings on Sunday evening. The Greens topped their qualifying group unscathed with five wins and one stalemate from six matches, scoring 25 goals and conceding just five times. With quality players such as Yassin Brahimi, Islam Slimani and Riyad Mahrez, it’s no wonder Algeria are favourites for the victory.
Don’t write Zimbabwe off just yet. The Warriors will have a fighting chance, especially with the likes of Khama Billiat, Knowledge Musona and Tendai Ndoro keeping Algeria’s defence on their toes. Zimbabwe qualified for the 2017 AFCON with three wins from six matches, scoring 11 goals and conceding just four times. Back Algeria for the Win + Both Teams To Score at 22/10.
Tunisia 47/20 | Draw 2/1 | Senegal 13/10
Tunisia and Senegal will wrap up day two with what is arguably the match of the round. Tunisia topped their qualifying group with four wins from six matches, scoring 16 goals and only conceding three times. However, on foreign soil they struggled to get going and since this is a neutral venue, the Eagles of Carthage will need a top team performance to get one over the number one placed team on the CAF rankings.
Senegal are the only team to qualify for the 2017 AFCON with a 100% win-record. The Lions of Teranga scored 13 goals and conceded just twice in the process and will be determined to start the campaign off on a high. They have an abundance of top players at their disposal and at 13/10 are well worth a punt to bag all three points.
Monday 16 January
Ivory Coast 5/10 | Draw 29/10 | Togo 57/10
Ivory Coast will be keen to make it a memorable victorious Monday when they take on Togo. The Elephants are favourites, not just to win this encounter, but to lift the cup in February. They were not very impressive in the qualifying round, despite topping their group of three teams. Ivory Coast drew three and won just once, scoring only three goals in the process.
Togo qualified for the tournament as one of the best second placed finishers in the qualifying stage, winning three of their six matches, scoring 11 goals and conceding four times. Nonetheless, Ivory Coast should prove too strong for the Sparrow Hawks. The Elephants are unbeaten in their last 10 matches in all competitions and are tipped to maintain that for with a hard-fought victory.
DR Congo 2/1 | Draw 39/20 | Morocco 29/20
DR Congo and Morocco will square off in what should be an entertaining affair. The Leopards were brilliant in the in the qualifying round with five wins from six matches, scoring 16 goals and conceding six times.
Morocco were outstanding in the qualifying stage with a tremendous five wins and one draw from six games, scoring 10 goals and conceding just once. The Atlas Lions claimed a 3-0 victory over DR Congo the last time these sides met. But it’s a game that can go either way and I’m expected a goal fest. Both Teams To Score is the way to go at 23/20.
Tuesday 17 January
Ghana 15/20 | Draw 47/20 | Uganda 4/1
Ghana advanced from the qualifying round undefeated with four wins and two draws from six matches, scoring 14 goals and conceding just three times. The Black Stars are unbeaten in the last four meetings against Uganda and will be confident coming into this clash.
Uganda – like Togo – advanced to the 2017 AFCON finals as one of the best second place finishers in the qualifying round. The Cranes won four of their six matches and will be eager to continue that form here. However, I just don’t see that happening but Uganda might just keep them at bay until the end of the first stanza. Back a Halftime-Draw/Fulltime-Win for Ghana at a valuable 3/1.
Mali 24/10 | Draw 2/1 | Egypt 13/10
We end off with a mouth-watering matchup between Mali and Egypt. The Eagles soared through the qualifying round with an unbeaten record of five wins from six matches, scoring 13 goals and conceding just three times.
Egypt topped their 2017 AFCON qualifying group undefeated with three wins from four games, scoring seven goals and conceding just once. They are indeed my value bet to win the tournament at 9/1 and I believe they will make a solid start with a hard-fought victory over Mali.
FAVOURED TREBLE @ 10/1
Algeria Win + BTTS 22/10
Senegal Win 13/10
Ivory Coast Win 5/10
Written by Aaron Crowie for