Africa’s showpiece soccer occasion has been postponed twice, but on January 9, the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations will get underway and it promises a month of top-class international soccer. Let’s have a look at the betting picks.
|To Win AFCON 2021|
Who do Bettors Favor?
Since the first edition of this tournament in 1957, a total of 14 nations have won this tournament, but in recent years, it has been dominated by Egypt, Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast, who between them have won 13 of the 16 editions since 1990. So it is no surprise to find those names again at the top of the futures markets with the best sportsbooks although they are joined by the 2019 beaten finalists Senegal who are rated as narrow favourites by most bookmakers.
Algeria and Egypt, with their array of Premier League stars, are rated second and third in the betting and the Ivory Coast and Nigeria are close behind, followed by the host nation Cameroon.
How will AFCON 2021 Work?
The AFCON format is simple. The 24 nations are divided into six groups of four teams. Teams play one another once and at the end of the Group Stage, the top two in each group and the best four third-placed teams progress to the last 16 and the knock-out stages.
As is usually the case with this format, some Groups look more challenging than others. Hosts Cameroon has been given one of the easiest sections in Group A, and favourites Senegal in Group B have also been fortunate. Egypt faces a tougher challenge, taking on top five sides Nigeria, while Algeria, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone should make for a close-fought Group E.
Which Team Will Win AFCON 2022?
Although Senegal has never won this competition, there are good reasons why Aliou Cisse’s team is top of the futures betting. They lost out narrowly to Algeria in 2019 final, but are stronger three years on, due partly to having a settled side and continuity of coaching. At the heart of the team is a group of highly-rated Europe-based stars, a list that includes Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, Napoli defender, Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gana Gueye of PSG and Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy.
Although the holders Algeria can also boast a deadly forward line, made up of Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani and Adam Ounas, Senegal appear to have more strength in depth, particularly in defence, and that could be crucial in an often low-scoring competition.
Seven-time AFCON winners Egypt will bring a forward line that could equal Algeria’s, led by the sensational Mohammed Salah, but for bettors searching for an alternative to Senegal, the Ivory Coast could be a better way to go. The Elephants will field one of the strongest backlines in the competition, built around Eric Bailly and Serge Aurier, and can all on Premier League stars Nicolas Pepe and Wilfried Zaha up front. They reached the last eight of the 2020 Olympics and are still improving.
Which Other Teams Could Win AFCON 2021?
As always, the Nigerian squad looks good on paper, but converting talent into consistent success is something that has eluded them for many years, and the arrival of a new coach, Augustine Eguavoen just a month before the tournament is another unnecessary role of the dice. That upheaval should also make bettors wary of wagering on the Super Eagles pre-tournament.
As a host nation, Cameroon will have some market support, but the home advantage hasn’t been a big advantage in recent years. The host team hasn’t won this tournament since 2006 and although Cameroon has a good draw in the Group Stages, they lack the star talent of many of their rivals.
Instead, at bigger odds, Tunisia looks like a better option. They played well at the 2018 World Cup, reached the last four at AFCON 2019 and recently finished as runners-up in the Arab Cup, where they beat Egypt in the semi-final. As a bonus, they have a relatively simple Group to negotiate and are capable of going deep into the tournament.
Mane the Pick for Golden Boot
Three Premier League forwards, Salah, Mahrez and Mane, dominate the Top Goalscorer markets and all can boast excellent credentials, but it is the two Liverpool stars who make the most appeal.
Both Salah and Mane will benefit from their status as the main striker for their nations, while Mahrez has to share more of the striking duties, and was matched by teammate Adam Ounas in 2019. Of the Liverpool duo, Salah has had a better domestic season so far but Mane offers more value in this market. You should also consider a bet on Sebastian Haller of the Ivory Coast, who has been in excellent form with Ajax this season.