WITH all four Group D teams tied after two games, Guinea and Mali know that Wednesday’s winner will book themselves a place in the Nations Cup quarter-finals. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at the best bets on offer.
Guinea v Mali | Wednesday 18.00 | Eurosport
Things could not be tighter in Group D – all four teams have the same points, goal difference and goals scored. It means there’s a chance that lots will have to be drawn to determine the quarter-finalists – if both of the final group games end in identical draws.
Both Guinea and Mali were supposed to be on their way home by now. The two Group D outsiders were expected to struggle against heavyweights Ivory Coast and Cameroon but in fact, both have arguably been the most impressive teams in the pool. So knowing that at least one of the two outfits are likely to be on their way home seems a tad unfair.
Guinea were much the better side for the majority of their opener against Ivory Coast but faded in the final 30 minutes. That allowed the 10-man Elephants to escape, netting a late leveller to share the points. Against Cameroon, Michel Dussuyer’s men showed spirit and character to battle back from a goal down to take a point.
But Dussuyer has more defensive problems to deal with on Wednesday. Florentin Pogba’s groin injury looks unlikely to heal leaving Guinea without their first-choice centre-halves, with skipper Kamil Zayatte already ruled out. It’s not an ideal situation for a Sparrow Hawks side that’s kept just one clean sheet in 14 outings (and that came at home to Uganda).
Guinea are the outsiders of the two in the Match Odds but I’ve no interest in taking either side when Both Teams To Score is still being offered at such generous quotes. William Hill make it a 23/20 chance and I’ll happily get stuck in.
For all the Sparrow Hawks’ defensive failings, they offer a menacing counter-attacking threat in the form of Ibrahima Traore, Mohammed Lamine and Mo Yattara. Dussuyer’s men have scored in 17/18 outings so you’ve got to assume they’re capable of adding to that tally in Mongomo. For the record, 12 of their last 14 have also featuring Both Teams To Score.
Opponents Mali are looking to reach the knockout stage for the seventh time in nine previous finals appearances and have already flouted their reputation for anti-football with two all-action displays. But in both matches, the Eagles have failed to see their leads out, conceding late goals.
Wolves wideman Bakary Sako has been a huge asset down the left and whilst coach Henryuk Kasperczak claims his side are going through a transitional phase, the team has shown enough quality to warrant maximum respect to deserve their tag as match favourites.
As well as down the wings, Mali will be imposing, physical and a danger in the air. It’s hard not to see them netting; they’ve scored in 15 of their last 17 matches and that’s led to Both Teams Scoring in 12 of those previous 17 outings.
If pushed, I’d be with Mali but the best bet is to follow the Group D trends and back another Both Teams To Score bet at odds-against quotes.
Guinea v Mali – Both Teams To Score (23/20 William Hill)