The 30th Africa Cup of Nations is due to get underway in Equatorial Guinea on Saturday, 17 January culminating in the final which will be staged at the Estadio De Bata on 8 February. The hosts will kick it all off against the DR Congo.
Morocco was the original host country but refused to stage the tournament because of the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa. The host country was later changed to Equatorial Guinea; a small country on the west coast of Africa which will host games across its four main cities; Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyín. The defending champions Nigeria failed to qualify for the tournament so there will be a new champion nation in 2015.
The Ivory Coast has become perhaps the most recognisable African football team in recent years with a multitude of Premier League stars amongst their ranks. Kolo and Yaya Toure immediately spring to mind as does Wilfried Bony. Manchester City are close to sealing a £28m deal for striker who has starred for Swansea in the top flight of English football and he is expected to fire his country to glory.
‘The Elephants’ have been installed as the outright winner favourites with the bookmakers at 4/1. However the Ivory Coast didn’t top there qualification group which was in fact won by Cameroon. Despite possessing on paper what seems by far the strongest team on the African continent, history seems to say that they will let the punters down once more. They haven’t made it past the quarter finals since they won it back in 1992. The group of talented individuals never seem to be able to blend together successfully; they seem to want to exorcise their brute strength and athletic power which they have in abundance but all too often they fall short tactically. Is it a lack of on field discipline? It may be worth considering laying the Ivory Coast on the exchanges. They’ve not shown as of yet the signs that they have learnt from mistakes of old but equally they just cannot be ruled out completely.
Algeria hold the highest FIFA World ranking (18th) of all the competitors and are second favourites to lift the cup at 5/1, although they have not won it since 1990. The Northern African countries tend to exhibit more of a European style of football but have lacked quality in the final third in recent years. Young Tottenham midfielder, Nabil Bentaleb will be turning out for Algeria and will also line up alongside Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez who has been a bright spark at times this season for Nigel Pearson. They are players who may be able to inject some much needed creativity into a previously stale and unattractive Algerian side.
9/1 shots Tunisia, winners in 2004, topped there qualifying group unbeaten and are the second highest FIFA world ranked African nation (22nd) at the tournament. They topped arguably the hardest qualifying group that included Senegal and the most successful African nation; 7 times winners Egypt who failed to qualify. They therefore look like they are in with a decent shout and look as though they will easily negoatiate Group B.
16/1 shots Senegal perhaps best remembered for beating France in the opening match of the 2002 World Cup, have never won the title. Striker Papiss Cissé has scored nine goals in 13 games this season for Newcastle and 25/1 is available for him to be the top goalscorer. Senegal certainly have plenty of striking options with Cissé, Southampton’s Sadio Mané, who’s scored five goals in his 16 matches and Stoke City forward Mame Biram Diouf who’s priced at 33/1 to top the scorer chart. Senegal could be a real threat this year.
The Black Stars, Ghana, are four times winners of the title. Asamoah Gyan has been an integral player for them for a long while and continues to be there main source of goals. Former Chelsea manager Avram Grant will be hoping to bring his knowledge and ideas to the table. He’s called upon the services of Kwesi Appiah, who is currently on loan at Cambridge United in League Two from Crystal Palace. The diminutive Christian Atsu, has struggled for game time at Everton this year but Grant will need to bring the best out of him. At 9/1 Ghana are a decent price. They have still been one of the best African representatives when it comes to the World Cup.
South Africa are outsiders at 25/1. They were unbeaten in group qualifying and in AFC Bournemouth’s relatively unused striker Tokelo Rantie have a goal threat. 20/1 Burkina Faso will also be reliant on one man ex-Freiburg and HSV player, Jonathan Pitroipa, who is 40/1 for top goalscorer despite being the top scorer of all nations in qualifying.
The groups for Africa Cup of Nations 2015 are as follows:
Equatorial Guinea; Burkina Faso; Gabon; Congo
Zambia; Tunisia; Cape Verde; DR Congo
Ghana; Algeria; South Africa; Senegal
Ivory Coast; Mali; Cameroon; Guinea