GABON are odds-on favourites to make it two wins from two when they take on Congo on Wednesday night. Is Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) backing the Panthers?
Gabon v Congo | Wednesday 19.00 | Eurosport
Gabon head Group A after their opening day 2-0 win against Burkino Faso and although I talked them up as a 3/1 chance to win the pool, I wouldn’t be rushing to back them on the wrong side of even-money.
Yes, the Panthers qualified unbeaten (W3-D3) and beat the 2013 finalists in their opener but this is an altogether different task for Jorge Costa’s team.
Gabon are a side that enjoy to play on the counter-attack; once they win the ball back they’ll keep it on the floor and look to hit their electric front-three of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Frederic Bulot and Malick Evouna. It worked a treat against Burkino with Aubameyang and Evouna both grabbing goals.
However, the Panthers faced 21 shots in that fixture and it should be noted goalkeeper Didier Ovono was awarded the Man of the Match for his performance. It just goes to show that sometimes results can be misleading.
I’m not for one second saying Gabon didn’t deserve the points, they most certainly did. But it wasn’t a comfortable ride. Burkino Faso were happy to take the initiate and hold onto possession but it won’t be the same story when Congo ride into town.
The Red Devils will happily surrender the ball and look to frustrate the group leaders. Whether Costa’s young guns have the craft to unlock this Congo team remains to be seen. With 13 of their 20 outfield players just 23-years-old or younger, there’s a lack of experience in the Gabon ranks.
And it’s worth noting they failed to score in two meetings against Congo during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers – Congo were 1-0 winners on home soil and held Gabon to a 0-0 draw away.
In fact, the Red Devils avoided defeat in all three of their road trips during Nations Cup qualifying too. Defending champions Nigeria, the highly-rated South Africa and Sudan couldn’t beat Congo as hosts and with experienced Frenchman Claude Le Roy in the dugout, it’s difficult to bet against them.
Congo will take a defensive-first approach,; they’re renowned for being tough to breakdown and could field a five-man defence in the hope of frustrating Gabon. But don’t forget they can still call upon speedster Thievy Bifouma as an outlet alongside the bullocking Ferebory Dore in attack.
It’s a tricky game to call with two teams who prefer to play on the break. Gabon have the higher class individual talent, Congo boast experience and know-how. So I’m going to play the Asian Goals line instead. BetVictor have made Over 2 Goals an even-money shot which seems a fair shout.
Backing this selection means we’ll have ourselves a winner should three or more goals be netted in the match. Should only two goals be netted, we’ll get our cash back. Seven of Gabon’s last nine competitive games have featured at least two goals whilst nine of Congo’s last 11 have also produced two goals or more.
The first round of Nations Cup has seen all eight matches feature at least two goals with Both Teams To Score winners in seven of those. That’s a solid start and contrary to popular belief that opening matches are normally tight and claustrophobic affairs. So fingers crossed it’s a theme that continues into the second round of group games.
Gabon v Congo – Over 2 Goals on the Asian Goals line (1/1 BetVictor)