MARK O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) enjoyed an excellent African Cup of Nations but can he round up with a few profitable fancies from Sunday’s final?
Ivory Coast v Ghana | Sunday 19.00 | ITV4
The final of the African Cup of Nations arrives on Sunday night pitting together two of the continental powerhouses and West African neighbours Ivory Coast and Ghana. It promises to be a fascinating showdown in Bata, should both sides bring their A-game to the table.
In truth, neither nation looked like potential winners after matchday one. Pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast meandered to 1-1 draws in their opening pool fixtures before seeing off Cameroon 1-0 to top Group D. Since reaching the knockout stages Herve Renard’s team have played with more freedom and 3-1 victories over Algeria and DR Congo deserve credit. C
rucially for the Elephants, their star players have come to the fore in the previous two outings. Wilfried Bony and Gervinho have now netted two goals apiece whilst skipper Yaya Toure fired in a thunderbolt in the semi-final victory.
Ivory Coast reached the final in 2012 when Equatorial Guinea were co-hosts of the competition but missed out on their first continental triumph since 1992 when losing out on penalties to Zambia. Renard was in charge of the opposition that day and is hoping his experience will help calm the nerves of a nation that’s so often failed to produce when it matters most.
Meanwhile, Ghana bounced back from an opening 2-1 defeat to Senegal to beat Algeria and South Africa in the ‘Group of Death’ and claim top spot. From there, the Black Stars put Guinea and Equatorial Guinea away comfortably in the knockout stages but may again be without skipper and talisman Asamoah Gyan.
Avram Grant is in charge of Ghana as they seek a fifth AFCON title. But you have to go back to 1982 for their most recent success and with four runners-up medals, the Black Stars have been known to choke on the big occasion all too often.
So calling a winner looks a tricky task between two well-matched sides. Looking at the eight AFCON finals since the turn of the century we can see that six were settled by one goal or fewer in the regulation 90 minutes.
Just two featured Both Teams To Score winners and the same two also landed for Over 2.5 Goals punters. But I’m happy to bypass those previous trends by backing Both Teams To Score at 6/5 (William Hill.
Yes, the final could see both nations adopt a more defensively-minded game but the strengths of both sides are in forward positions and neither convinces when asked to sit back and soak up pressure.
Ivory Coast have now scored in 40/43 matches with 24/30 now seeing BTTS winners. Ghana have also shown their offensive threat over the past fortnight and should fancy their chances of breaching the Elephants’ ragged defence that’s already faced 17 shots-on-target in the competition.
Both Teams To Score has proved a popular winning selection at AFCON2015 with 19/30 games banking for punters and so I’m unwilling to desert it now. There was certainly a temptation to side with Ghana on the +0.25 Asian Handicap line too but I’ll keep things simple with a plunge on BTTS.
Here’s hoping for an entertaining final chapter from the 2015 edition of the African Cup of Nations.
Ivory Coast v Ghana – Both Teams To Score (6/5 William Hill)