AFRICA'S premier international tournament is upon us. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) previews the Group A encounter on Saturday between Burkino Faso and Cameroon.
Burkina Faso v Cameroon | Saturday 19:00 | Eurosport
Cameroon kick-off their African Cup of Nations campaign as 23/20 (Marathon) favourites to beat Burkino Faso on Saturday – a quote I’m running a mile from.
This is quite possibly the worst Cameroon squad in my living memory and the Indomitable Lions must be opposed in Liberville.
Head coach Hugo Broos saw his side complete qualifying unbeaten (W4-D2-L0), keeping five clean sheets in a modest pool alongside Mauritania, Gambia and South Africa. But the four-time champions have been hit by a number of squad withdrawals, particularly in defence.
Lions missing key defenders
Eight squad members – Guy N'dy Assembe, Andre Onana, Joel Matip, Allan Nyom, Maxime Poundje, Ibrahim Amadou, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Eric Maxime Choupo-Moting have all made themselves unavailable – Matip, Nyom and Amadou would have been expected to start in the back-four.
Nicolas N’Koulou has travelled with the team but the centre-half was dropped by Lyon recently for below-par performances in a defence that’s often underperformed – that’s hardly a glowing reference for a player that’s being tasked with filling Matip’s void.
Three of those aforementioned qualifiers were achieved by a 1-0 scoreline and the Broos’ bunch are stocked full of defensive-minded midfielders with attacking invention, creativity and playmaking ability thin on the ground.
Of course, in attack the trio of newly-named skipper Benjamin Moukandjo, Vincent Aboubakar, and Clinton N’Jie have the talent to trouble most continental backlines but without supply and a brand new defence of their own to organise, I just can’t be with Cameroon here.
Stallions in decent shape
Burkino Faso, like Cameroon, departed the 2015 AFCON competition at the first hurdle but arrive in Gabon eager to put those wrongs right.
The underdogs are ranked seventh in Africa – five places higher than their opponents – and seem much more settled now Portuguese head coach Paulo Duarte has returned to the fold.
Duarte lead the Stallions to their finest hour, finishing runners-up in 2013, and much of the same squad return for another bash at AFCON glory.
The Burkinabes are stacked with experience – defender Bakary Kone, midfielder and captain Charles Kabore and attacker Jonathan Pitroipa have 173 caps between them – as well as a bit of X-Factor in Bertrand Traore.
The betting angle
The West Africans are robust enough to avoid defeat on Saturday night and can be backed at 10/13 (188BET) with a +0.50 start on the Asian Handicap – a selection that would see us paid out should Burkino Faso collect at least a point.
However, goalmouth action might well be thin on the ground and considering 23/53 (43%) of opening round group games at the AFCON since 2000 ended 0-0 or 1-1 I’m going to attack the Correct Score route and back both with BetVictor offering 6/1 on each.