The cream of the crop in African football are descending on Equatorial Guinea for the 30th renewal of the African Cup of Nations. The tournament kicks-off on Saturday and Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) has got the betting covered.
Equatorial Guinea v Congo | Saturday 16.00 | Eurosport
Hosts Equatorial Guinea get the parted started on Saturday in Bata when they take on Congo and there’s plenty of reason to believe the two Group A outsiders can put on a show. BetVictor have made Over 2 Goals on the Asian Goals Line at even-money chance and I think that’s generous enough to have a play. With this selection, we’ll get our cash back if exactly two goals are scored and be in profit should the curtain-raiser produce three or more goals.
It’s a common thought that tournament openers can be cagey affairs but looking over the last six Nations Cup openers, we can see that four of those featured at least three goals, an encouraging start. But this bet’s stems from the strengths and weaknesses from both sides with neither Equatorial Guinea nor Congo laying claim to any players of standout class in defence.
Host nation Equatorial Guinea shouldn’t even be here (more of that in group preview here). Nevertheless, the chaotic preparation on and off the pitch can’t have helped their chances of success. New coach Esteban Becker was only employed since the start of the year and they’ve not played a registered match since June; they’ve also lost six of their previous nine known outings.
Host nations boast a W6-D4 record dating back to 1998 in the Nations Cup curtain-raiser but with all pre-tournament friendlies taking place behind doors, it’s hard to get a firm handle on the National Thunder. What we do know is, they enjoy a possession-based game with their individual strengths in attack. Veteran central midfielder Juvenal will run the show and they’ve plenty of options going forward to be deemed a threat.
One clean sheet since 2012 is certainly cause for optimism when chasing a goals bet, as is the fact that 12 of their last 15 outings (in registered games I should add) have seen at least two goals scored. Remember, we get our cash back if there’s exactly two goals plundered in this fixture.
So it’s a tick from Equatorial Guinea. How about Congo? Well playing ‘away’ to the hosts shouldn’t be an issue. In qualifying the Red Devils were unbeaten in trips to Nigeria, Sudan and Rwanda and although Claude Le Roy’s side will adopt a defensive approach, they will aim launch forward and counter-attack at great speed when the opportunity arises.
It worked a treat when Congo played away in defending Nations Cup champions Nigeria during qualification. The Red Devils inflicted a first defeat in 34 years in Calabar against the Super Eagles with a thrilling and clinical display, winning 3-2. They’ll look to continue in the same vain in Bata despite their own defensive concerns.
Centre-half is an area of weakness where a lack of pace could be cruelly exposed. And it’s not uncommon for the backline to be beset by jitters and that’s certainly an area the hosts will be looking to take advantage of. It means there's a big responsibility on likes of nippy Thievy Bifouma and giant Ferebory Dore grabbing their chances when do decide to spring forward.
Like their hosts, Congo’s games haven’t been low on goals recently. Seven of their last 10 have reached the magic two-goal mark and it should allow us a bit of safety should the two teams decide they’re unwilling to risk losing this opener. Realistically, that shouldn’t be the case with both nations knowing full well tougher Group A tasks follow. So let's go with the goals!
Equatorial Guinea v Congo – Over 2 Goals on the Asian Goals Line (1/1 BetVictor)