Our football writer previews the last AFCON 2017 group games.
With the AFCON 2017 group stages coming to an end, every team in the tournament excluding Uganda – who have been eliminated following consecutive defeats – have a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Six games to go and six quarter-final places remain. It’s do or die and at this stage of the tournament there is very little room for error. Precision, focus, hard work and determination is what will be required to advance to the knockout phase of the competition but expect the unexpected, the ball is round.
Monday 23 January
Zimbabwe 9/2 | Draw 26/10 | Tunisia 6/10
Monday’s opening game pits Zimbabwe up against Tunisia. The latter need just a point to qualify for the quarter-finals, while the Warriors must claim maximum points to advance to the next round of the tournament.
Zimbabwe earned an excellent 2-2 draw against Algeria in their opening match before Senegal beat them 2-0. Tunisia also fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Senegal but bounced back with an impressive 2-1 victory against Algeria.
Zimbabwe must attack the game and that could leave their backline vulnerable. Tunisia’s victory over Algeria would have boosted their confidence and belief. Back the Eagles of Carthage to claim maximum points with a narrow victory at 6/10.
Senegal 23/10 | Draw 22/10 | Algeria 12/10
Senegal and Algeria will lock horns in what promises to be a cracking contest. The Lions of Teranga – along with Ghana - are the only team at the Nations Cup with a 100% win-record and will be eager to maintain that form against a winless Algerian side.
The Desert Warriors have under-performed thus far and will need nothing less than a victory over Senegal to stand a chance of qualifying for the knockout round. It might be easier said than done, but Senegal may opt to field some of their fringe players, giving the Algerians a glimmer of hope.
Either way, the Lions of Teranga have been solid defensively, claim back-to-back wins without conceding. The sides are tipped to cancel each other out at 22/10.
Tuesday 24 January
Morocco 29/10 | Draw 21/10 | Ivory Coast 21/20
Morocco and Ivory Coast will square off on Tuesday at the Stade d'Oyem. The Atlas Lions made a disappointing start to their campaign suffering a 1-0 defeat against DR Congo, but came back strong with a 3-1 win over Togo last time out.
Ivory Coast started the AFCON 2017 as tournament favourites but have looked far from it. Back-to-back stalemates has put the Elephants under-pressure to claim all three points against Morocco or else suffer the consequences – elimination.
In the last six meetings between these sides, Morocco have failed to win, while Ivory Coast have earned three victories with the draw occurring three times. A tight affair is expected and the sides are tipped to share the spoils yet again.
Togo 47/20 | Draw 21/10 | DR Congo 5/4
Togo and DR Congo are up next. The Sparrow Hawks have failed to impress, as they remain without a win after two matches – drawing with Ivory Coast before going down 3-1 to a superior Moroccan side.
DR Congo have looked like the real deal. They kick-started the Nations Cup with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Morocco and followed that up with a 2-2 draw against Ivory Coast. The Leopards will be eager to finish the group phase strong and more importantly top their table. Back DR Congo for the win.
Wednesday 25 January
Uganda 38/10 | Draw 9/4 | Mali 8/10
Uganda will be playing for pride when they take on Mali on Wednesday evening. The Cranes have lost both their matches 1-0 against Ghana and Egypt respectively. To be fair, they were never expected to beat either of those teams and to their credit always kept themselves in the game with a slight chance of upsetting the applecart.
Uganda will look to frustrate and keep Mali at bay for as long as possible and I believe they are organized enough to do so. Mali played to a goalless draw with Egypt before going down 1-0 to Ghana and will now be determined to bag all three points in order to stand a chance of progressing to the next round. However, Uganda are tipped to hold out to earn their first and only point of the tournament with a draw.
Egypt 23/10 | Draw 12/10 | Ghana 22/10
African giants Egypt and Ghana will close off the group stage. The Pharaohs played to a goalless draw with Mali in their opening match of the tournament and followed that up with a nail-biting 1-0 victory over Uganda.
A draw will see both teams progress to the next round. Nonetheless, Ghana as well as Egypt have the quality to snatch all three points. The Black Stars have won both their games, claiming 1-0 victories in each encounter.
You can expect a laid-back performance from Ghana and Egypt but both teams are likely to create opportunities to edge the win. I said at the start of the AFCON that Egypt have a team capable of winning the tournament and although they haven’t been at their best, I feel they still have a lot to offer. Back the Pharaohs to claim a marginal victory.
TREBLE @ 22/1
Senegal Draw (22/10)
DR Congo Win (5/4)
Egypt Win (23/10)
Written by Aaron Crowie for