There is no doubt that the African nations are getting better and I expect a strong challenge from Ivory Coast at this summer’s world. The Ivorians begin the African Nations as deserving favourites and the 9/4 available with several company’s is probably not a bad punt. I am looking for value, however, in what has proved to be a quirky tournament for results in the past.
I am tipping up the unfancied Mali team to upset the odds and at 22/1 they represent the undoubted value for me. To begin with they have got a relatively easy group which includes the hosts Angola, Algeria and Malawi. They take part in the tournament’s opening fixture against Angola. The teams met 11 months ago and that resulted in a 4-0 trouncing for Mali. There is no doubt that being the host nation offers a slight advantage but I cannot see past Mali and Algeria as the main 2 teams in the group.
Mali do not concede many goals and with the excellent Mahamadou Diarra of Real Madrid offers excellent protection in midfield along with former Liverpool man, Momo Sissoko. Sissoko may not be comfortable with the ball at his feet but he covers the ground as well as anybody and will make it difficult for the opposition.
The eyecatching players in the team are Seydou Keita and Freddie Kanoute (21 goals in 35 games). These 2 players will ensure that the goals keep coming and that Mali are a constant threat in attack.
No team will win such a top tournament with just 4 players of course and these lads are ably assisted by a team full of experience.
The Mali team have flattered to deceive in previous years but I think it’s different this time. They are a team very much united behind their excellent coach, Stephen Keshi (who guided Togo to the last world cup), and they are a squad full of players who have bags of experience and have just hit their prime.
My advice to you is to back Mali for tournament honours. They are 9th favourites according to the bookmaker’s but a squad with this experience and talent should rank up among the top contenders. The Ivorians are the only team that i could truly say have better players in the competition.
Mali to win the African Nations Cup @ 22/1 with Ladbrokes. (e/w is 1/2 odds for top 2).
Mali to bet Angola @ 2/1 with either Bet 365 or Ladbrokes