GROUP D’s the focus for African Cup of Nations fans on Tuesday. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at tournament favourites Ivory Coast’s opener against Guinea.
Ivory Coast v Guinea | Tuesday 04.00 | Eurosport
For the fifth successive Nations Cup, Ivory Coast turn up as tournament favourites. I’m nowhere near convinced they deserve that tag and remember, they’ve not had their hands on the coveted trophy since 1992.
To try and end that unwanted record, the Elephants signed up Herve Renard as coach. He’s the man who led Zambia to their unlikely 2012 triumph. However, if you look beyond his embarrassment of riches in attacking areas, there’s a lot NOT to like about this side.
Defensively, the Elephants remain a shambles. A 4-1 defeat to qualifying group rivals Cameroon and a 4-3 home loss to DR Congo (their first home defeat in nine years) brought about a return for Kolo Toure in an attempt to shore things up.
Their 11 goals conceded meant they had the most porous backline of all qualified sides and it’s a huge red stop sign in my face when viewing Ivory Coast as potential champions, group winners and even the short-prices on offer to beat Guinea.
Renard claims his side have enjoyed a ‘super training camp’ but they come into this match with a few of their bigger names apparently nursing knocks. Skipper Yaya Toure is one and although the national side are unbeaten in 11 Nations Cup group games (winning nine), I’m not interested in backing them in any available markets.
Guinea should have the hearts of all Nations Cup fans with them. Forced to play all their home games in Morocco after the deadly Ebola pandemic spread across the nation, Michael Dussuyer’s side defied expectations, stigma and upheaval to book their place in Equatorial Guinea.
Dussuyer’s is in his third stint as Guinea boss and his strong leadership has been a big advantage to the team during difficult circumstances. As is the continuity throughout the squad – five players started all six qualifiers – but if there’s a weakness it could be at the back. The Sparrow Hawks are without skipper and centre half Kamil Zayatte and kept only one clean sheet during the qualifiers, which doesn’t bode well for a side that adopt a safety-first attitude.
But they can give the Ivory Coast defence plenty to think about once they do decide to give it a go. Ibrahima Traore is joined by Seydouba Soumah and Mohammed Lamine in a quality forward line that plays predominantly on a lightning quick counter-attack and electric transitions.
They’re most definitely capable of getting a goal. So seeing the price on Both Teams To Score has me sold. Coral have gone 11/8 and I’m going all in. it’s a bet that’s won in 11/14 Guinea games before arriving here (their last warm-up match ended in a 5-2 loss to Senegal) and they’ve only failed to score once in 16 outings. Meanwhile, Ivory Coast have seen BTTS in a whopping 20/21 games before they began their pre-tournament friendlies in November.
Ivory Coast v Guinea – Both Teams To Score (11/8 Coral)