MARK O'HAIRE'S (@MarkOHaire) been backing bags of 2017 African Cup of Nations winners. Next on his hit-list is Group C's finale between Togo and DR Congo.
Togo v DR Congo | Tuesday 19:00 | Eurosport
Togo will be without goalkeeper Kossi Agassa after an ugly reaction to his performance against Morocco last time out.
The 38-year-old struggled in the 3-1 loss on Friday, conceding a pair of goals from set-pieces before being beaten by a long-range effort for the third.
Agassa’s home in the Togolese capital of Lome has subsequently been vandalised by fans attributing the loss to the keeper and coach Claude Le Roy revealed he is unlikely to feature in the Group C finale in Port-Gentil.
Fifth tier keeper
It means Cedric Mensah will be between the sticks for the Sparrow Hawks, a 27-year-old cat that earns his corn for Le Mans in the fifth tier of French football. That’s hardly a glowing reference for a side that requires a win to stand any chance of progressing to the knockout stages for only the second time in eight AFCON finals.
DR Congo’s top-heavy forwardline should be looking forward to the prospect of testing Mensah out, particularly with their menacing deliveries from set-pieces and wide areas. Both have proved a popular avenue of attack from the Leopards in this year’s competition.
We outlined Florent Ibenge’s men as possible dark horses in this competition and although they’ve haven’t exactly set the world alight, they’ve negotiated the pool’s two toughest tests. And in theory, this encounter should play into their counter-attacking preference with Togo gunning for victory.
In strikers Dieumerci Mbokani and Cedric Bakambu, the Leopards pack plenty of punch but it’s Junior Kabananga that’s hit he headlines. The Astana man has notched in both games thus far but his pace and trickery could be disrupted by the terrible surface in Port-Gentil.
Terrible surface in Port-Gentil
Four group-games to be played in the city have produced only three goals (1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 0-0) and it’s quite off-putting for punters chasing goals in this game. Throw in the fact that DR Congo have actually only attempted 10 shots in their two pool openers and I’m starting to be swayed more towards opposing goals.
There’s value in 39/50 (Marathon) quotes on Under 2.5 Goals – that’s 1.78 in decimals – might sound too enticing but it’s a selection that’s landed in 43/73 (59%) of final group-games at AFCON tournaments this century, implying odds of 7/10 would be accurate. I’ll stick it in the portfolio.
Adebayor to lead Togo’s challenge
Elsewhere, Togo skipper Emmanuel Adebayor twice went close in the Sparrow Hawks’ 3-1 reverse to Morocco and no player at AFCON 2017 has fired in more attempts at goal (6). Floyd Ayite and Mathieu Dossevi provide the offensive support for the underdogs but everything goes through Adebayor.
The Togolese have to attack to stand any chance of a knockout berth and although Claude Le Roy's side have only managed a solitary goal from their first two games, the Sparrow Hawks have attempted 20 efforts with 11 arriving from inside the opposition penalty box.
If Adebayor’s legs can last the distance, I’d expect him to be in the thick of the action as Togo push forward. His aerial threat negates the terrible pitch problems and at 11/4 (Betway) he looks just a little too big to ignore here.
DR Congo kept only three clean sheets in 10 competitive clashes since the 2015 AFCON and have an expected goals against return of 1.11 per-game across their two Group C fixtures thus far, suggesting they’re not as watertight as head coach Ibenge might believe.