Ivory Coast begin bid to win Africa Cup of Nations with Guinea game
The Ivory Coast once again enjoy status as favourites for the Africa Cup of Nations (joint with Algeria at 4/1 with Coral), and they should get Group D, a pool they are odds-on at 4/5 to top, off to a winning starting against Guinea, because the Elephants have never lost a competitive international with their near namesakes.
Herve Renard took Zambia all the way in 2012, and will be expected to do so again in Equatorial Guinea, as he has plenty of Ivorians that are household names in football. Cameroon, 9/1 tournament chances, and Mali are also in this group, so sterner tests lies ahead for the Elephants.
Ivory Coast v Guinea
With history firmly on the Ivorians’ side and a roster packed full of stars, the Elephants are odds-on 8/15 favourites to defeat Guinea again. An upset seems remote at 4/1 and a draw 13/5.
Back at the 2008 edition of this tournament, the Ivory Coast crushed this opposition 5-0. A repeat scoreline, which is not inconceivable, is a 70/1 shot. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that subsequent contests have been closer run things, with a 2-1 a more likely result at 17/2.
All eyes will be on new Manchester City acquisition Wilfried Bony here. His international form in qualifying clearly suggested there was more to come from him, and the Etihad-bound striker is a 7/2 chance to score first.
Ex-Arsenal attacker Gervinho and former Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou are horses for this particular course, however, having bagged braces in big wins in this fixture previously.
Roma wideman Gervinho is 6/5 in the anytime market, and Hertha Berlin’s Kalou is better at 5/4. Repeats of those respective two goals or more for these two are 6/1 and 7/1 apiece.
Neither the Elephants not Guinea’s preparation for the tournament has been ideal, with both sides suffering defeats. If the group outsiders are to score here, look to leading marksman in qualifying Seydouba Soumah (7/2 anytime) or Borussia Monchengladbach powerhouse Ibrahima Tarore (6/1).
Cameroon v Mali
Just like in the other pool fixture, Mali have never beaten the Indomitable Lions in a competitive international, so Cameroon, now without Samuel Eto’o and Alex Song, start as even-money favourites for three points. The Eagles are 12/5 to finally beat these African heavyweights, while a draw – the result recorded by Cameroon in their two warm-up friendlies – is 2/1.
It’s a first meeting for 13 years between these two, and two Lions forwards will want to take up the Eto’o mantle here. Porto player Vincent Aboubakar was top scorer in qualifying and netted last time out, so is 5/4 to be on target anytime, and 5/1 to grab the opener.
Lyon windeman Clinton N’Jie also impressed en route to Cameroon reaching the finals, and he is better in the anytime market at 9/4. Mali’s main scoring hope, meanwhile, may be Wolves winger Bakary Sako, and he is 7/2 to deliver here.
Veteran Eagles midfielder and skipper Seydou Keita, once of Barcelona and now at Roma, will relish a duel with Sevilla and Lions counterpart Stephane Mbia. This engine room head-to-head may govern the outcome of this, with Cameroon 10/1 chances to win 2-0.