AFCON: Hosts Equatorial Guinea open tournament against Congo
After much controversy surrounding the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, following the Ebola epidemic, the tournament finally gets under way with new hosts Equatorial Guinea, who replaced Morocco, going up against Congo first in Group A.
The National Thunder are lucky to even be in this competition, let alone as hosts, as they were previously thrown out due to fielding an ineligible player – their captain Emilio Nsue, who plays for Middlesbrough.
Fellow Group A teams Burkina Faso and Gabon, meanwhile, also duel in the later opening day kick-off.
Equatorial Guinea v Congo
Tournament hosts and last AFCON runner-ups Equatorial Guinea (3/1 with Coral to top the pool) have lost five of their six meetings with fellow Central African nation Congo (6/1), so the Red Devils are decent chances at 9/4 for victory again.
Congo have triumphed 2-1 in three of those head-to-heads, so take tempting odds of 12/1 for them to record that scoreline in their favour once more.
However, the National Thunder’s sole victory over the Red Devils came on home turf in Bata. They won 2-1 that day, and face them at that very ground again for this match, which is why they are 11/8 favourites to beat Congo and 10/1 to do so by that scoreline.
Both managers have tasted victory in major tournaments on this continent, with National Thunder’s Esteban Becker winning this trophy with the female Equatorial Guinea team in 2012, and Congo’s Claude Le Roy lifted the AFCON title with Cameroon in 1988.
For goals, Equatorial Guinea’s Randy, one of 14 Spanish-born players in their 23-man squad, tops his nation’s scoring market. The winger, who represents Greek second-tier team Iraklis Psachna, is 6/4 in the anytime market.
National Thunder’s highest profile players Nsue of Middlesbrough, now eligible, and former Real Madrid attacker Javier Balboa are 9/1 and 2/1 chances respectively.
Congo, meanwhile, can call on former West Bromwich Albion loanee Thievy Bifouma, who is 9/4 to score anytime.
Burkina Faso v Gabon
From these two nations’ 17 meetings, they have drawn eight times, and that outcome again is priced at 19/10.
Burkina Faso (13/8 to top Group A) go into the game as slight favourites, though, at 17/10, despite losing two of their last three competitive games (winning none) with Gabon.
The Panthers, therefore, are decent shouts at 15/8 to beat the Stallions, and 2/1 to finish first in their pool.
Gabon are neighbours to hosts Equatorial Guinea, so will know the climate and area well, and can call upon Borussia Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to see them through this match. He is 5/4 to score anytime, and 5/1 to net first.
Chelsea youngster Bertrand Traore, who is currently on loan at Eredivisie feeder club Vitesse Arnhem, meanwhile, is 11/4 to get a goal for Burkina Faso. His older brother Alain is 7/4 in the same market.