GROUP B of the African Cup of Nations comes to a close on Monday and Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) has been hunting for the best value available for Cape Verde’s clash with Zambia.
Cape Verde v Zambia | Monday 18.00 | Eurosport
All 16 sides were in with a shout of qualification for the quarter-finals after two games and the state of play in Group B should lead to two fascinating contests, especially in Ebebiyín where Cape Verde and Zambia both remain in the hunt for last eight places. Yet oddly, it remains impossible for both to go through.
The Islanders know a win will certainly see them progress (although a draw could be enough) whilst Zambia’s hopes are no longer in their own hands. The Copper-headed Bullets must take all three points and then rely on Tunisia avoiding defeat against DR Congo.
Starting with Cape Verde, the Blue Sharks have drawn both matches but only managed one goal, a hotly disputed penalty against pool leaders Tunisia. And the Islanders will need to improve their game in the final third if they’re to have realistic ambitions of going further in the competition.
However, Rui Aguas’ men went through a similar campaign two years ago. Having been held to draws in their first two fixtures, Cape Verde beat Angola 2-1 in their final Nations Cup group game to secure qualification. Aguas has stated that a last-eight place is the “minimum objective for his side” and they do look the best equipped to collect the three points.
Star man Helton wasn’t fit enough for their last outing but he should return to the fold as the Blue Sharks look to add to their tally of just one goal from 18 attempts. Aguas’ side are filled with a wealth of attacking players and we also know they’re a neat, tidy and settled unit. But that lack of cutting edge has to be addressed.
The Islanders have scored in six of their last nine games but have been kept quiet by the likes of Zambia, Mozambique and Luxembourg this calendar year. And they’ve never scored or conceded more than two goals in a single Nations Cup game; indeed their six previous games have seen just nine goals in total.
Opponents Zambia have been a bit of a let-down in the tournament, so far. The Copper-headed Bullets took the lead in both of their matches before failing to close out the game on both occasions. Again, they’ve been poor in front of goal, scoring just twice from 22 shots in the competition.
It was a similar story in Nations Cup qualifying; Zambia only managed six goals and three of those came at home to minnows Niger. In fact, they’ve only scored two goals or more in five of their last 26 outings so finding a way to goal is going to be a big issue.
Honour Janza’s side will give a late fitness test to Southampton striker Emmanuel Mayuka but have already lost key midfielder Nathan Sinkala. Those absences could prove pivotal in a tight encounter and I’ve seen enough from Cape Verde to believe they’re the more likely winners.
I’m unwilling to back them in the Match Odds market, partly because Zambia can be a tough nut to crack. They’ve suffered just four defeats in their last 19 and could easily claim a point. But as already mentioned, Cape Verde boast the better options and with only four defeats in their last 20 themselves, make the most appeal at 19/20 (Coral) in the Draw No Bet market.
Meanwhile, we saw Group A liven up in the final 45 minutes on Sunday evening and I’d expect something similar on Monday. Under 2.5 Goals has paid out in 14/18 matches whilst Both Teams To Score has proven a winner in 12/18 at the Nations Cup so far.
But if we look closer, 10/18 games have featured exactly two goals and 13/18 have also seen exactly 2-3 goals. I’m happy to get stuck into the even-money on offer from Ladbrokes that this fixture produced Exactly 2-3 Goals in the Total Goals market with both sides knowing they must go on the offensive as time runs out on their hopes and dreams.