THE African Cup of Nations has reached the quarter-final stage with Group B winners Senegal facing Group A runners-up Cameroon on Saturday. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) previews the encounter.
Senegal v Cameroon | Saturday 19:00 | Eurosport
Anybody who’s taken more than a passing interest in the African Cup of Nations will know one nation has stood out from the competitors from the off.
Senegal starred in Group B, taking top pool honours with a seven-point haul having overcome Tunisia in their opener and Zimbabwe in their second fixture. With quarter-final qualification assured, head coach Aliou Cisse then made 10 changes for the final fixture with Algeria, collecting a 2-2 draw.
The Teranga Lions are now appearing in the knockout stages for the first time in 11 years but Cisse’s said the squad are remaining grounded despite a growing clamour to tag the current generation of Senegalese stars, the country’s greatest ever.
Senegal’s Class of 2002 – which Cisse captained – fell at the final hurdle. But the current crop are determined to last the distance and they’ve unquestionably produced the most convincing performances throughout the 2017 edition.
The west African nation are averaging 15 shots per-game with 7.66 arriving from inside the penalty area. Chuck in their back-to-back clean sheets before their group concluder and a first semi-final appearance since 2006 should be within reach.
There’s a cohesion and spirit about the Senegal set-up. But most importantly, there’s a collection of quality players pulling in the right direction with a superb spine including Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, Balde Keita, Cheikhou Kouyate.
The Teranga Lions arrive here ready and rested and confident too having picked up 10 wins from their past 12 outings. The Group B winners have tended to do their damage early – scoring five of their six goals before the half-time and we shouldn’t rule out a repeat here.
However, I’m going to play it nice and simple by backing Senegal to win at odds-against quotes of 21/20 (BetVictor). It’s just too big a price against a Cameroon side I’ve been looking to oppose from the get-go.
Cameroon opposable, again
In fairness, Cameroon have played better than I’d anticipated but that doesn’t mean they haven’t toiled a bit during the competition’s weakest pool.
The Indomitable Lions’ victory over no-hopers Guinea-Bissau had an element of fortune about it, they could easily have been sunk by hosts Gabon in their final fixture and you’d have to say they were second-best against Burkina Faso in their opener.
Hugo Broos, the Cameroon head coach, sounded a little fearful about the prospect of facing Senegal in his dealings with the press with supporters back home expecting his side to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2008.
Broos’ boys would be out of the competition had a late Gabon shot not hit the woodwork and whilst they’re monotonous, grinding game-plan can make the Indomitable Lions difficult to beat and breakdown, there’s most definitely a gulf in class between these two in Franceville.
Senegal v Cameroon – Senegal to win (21/20 BetVictor)
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