GROUP A comes to a conclusion on Sunday night at the 2017 African Cup of Nations. Can outsiders Guinea-Bissau edge their way into the quarter-finals? Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) analyses the action.
Guinea-Bissau v Burkino Faso | Saturday 19:00 | Eurosport
Burkina Faso have made the African Cup of Nations finals in 10 of the last 12 tournaments but the Burkinabe have only progressed to the quarter-finals twice before. However, the Stallions can secure a place in the knockout stages by beating Guinea-Bissau on Sunday evening.
Should Cameroon beat Gabon in the other Group A encounter, a draw would be enough for Burkina Faso but they’ll be well aware of the threat posed by their opposition in Franceville with group leaders Cameroon pushed to the brink in their most recent encounter.
Only two of the last eight AFCON debutants have progressed past the group-stages and despite sitting bottom of the pool with one point, underdogs Guinea-Bissau could still reach the quarter-finals if they claim their first win in the finals and Gabon fail to beat Cameroon.
Baciro Cande's side led Group A favourites Cameroon for over an hour on Wednesday and the Wild Dogs’ head coach has said his side have learned valuable lessons from their opening two games.
Against Cameroon, Piquito's superb solo goal after 13 minutes handed Guinea-Bissau a shock lead. The 23-year-old surged from inside his own half and beat three players before slamming the ball home and although the newcomers ended up pointless, their attacking threat can’t be denied.
Cande has a right to feel a little aggrieved with the current group standings. Two of the three goals Guinea-Bissau have conceded have come from efforts outside the penalty box and although they’ve been well beaten on the performance data metrics, the Wild Dogs have remained very competitive.
Burkina Faso head into this contest following back-to-back 1-1 draws. The Stallions have only impressed in fits and starts and pressure is now growing on boss Paulo Duarte to deliver a positive result. The Portuguese coach has yet to win any of his seven games at the tournament with the Burkinabe (W0-D3-L4).
Experienced striker Prejuce Nakoulma notched his ninth goal in his 36 appearances to give Burkina Faso the lead against Gabon last time out. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s penalty cancelled out the opener and Stallions keeper Herve Koffi was called into regular action.
Burkina Faso's clearest chance was created by Alain Traore, who cut into the box between two defenders and sent a shot towards the far corner only to see it well saved by the Gabonese cat. But in truth, the Burkinabe disappointed in the final third for the second successive match.
Duarte’s troops will be without two key players here after Jonathan Pitroipa and Jonathan Zongo were ruled out of action so they’ll need the underperforming Bertrand Traore to emerge if they’re to open up a stubborn, and at times, flimsy Guinea-Bissau defence.
Goals the option of attack
I’ve not seen enough to suggest Burkina Faso are worth odds-on shots and although the romantic in me wants to back Guinea-Bissau in some way or form, I’m going to stick with a goals-based selection here.
With the two nations knowing progression is possible, should they clinch maximum points, I’m expecting a fairly open encounter. Both Teams To Score has banked in all four Group A games thus far and can be supported at kind 13/10 (William Hill) quotes here.
Collectively, these two teams have scored in 19/22 (86%) of competitive games since the 2015 AFCON. And below I’ve added a few tournament trends I’ve unearthed based on final group-games since the turn of the century.
BTTS has banked in 35/71 (49%) of final group-games since 2000 with the average goals per-game in those pool concluders sitting at 2.24. The three most popular correct scores are 2-1 (18%), 1-1 (15%) and 2-0 (15%) with only 7/71 (10%) finishing goalless.
The 2017 edition has been littered with stalemates – 7/16 (44%) but the competition average during the group-stage is 33% dropping ever so slightly to 32% when counting only the final group-games.
Traditionally, this is where international tournaments come to the fore – teams are facing elimination or progression, more risks are taken and games become a little more unscripted. That should play into our hands here, especially with the two nations a little unconvincing in approach and defensive-mode.
Guinea-Bissau v Burkina Faso – Both Teams To Score (13/10 William Hill)