Africa Nations Cup 2021 Odds: AFCON knockout stages preview and all teams graded
The Africa Cup of Nations continues on Sunday with the start of the knockout phase. After a slow start where the games were very cagey and low scoring, the AFCON has kicked into life. We've asked our man OddsTerrier to follow on from his pre tournament preview, check out the knockout stages and give a grade so far on the teams left in the tournament.
We have seen huge shocks, such as 2019 winners Algeria finishing bottom of their group with only a solitary point. The absolute mess that was Tunisia v Mali, with the referee blowing twice for time before the 90 minutes was up. The phenomenal goal scoring ability of Vincent Aboubakar for the hosts and possibly the greatest story of them all: debutants Comoros, an island nation with a population of under 900k, qualifying after knocking out mighty Ghana, four time African Champions.
All that leaves us with an intriguing set of ties for the 2nd round knockout phases.
Sunday, Jan. 23
Burkina Faso vs. Gabon (4 pm, Limbe)
Nigeria vs. Tunisia (7 pm, Garoua)
Monday, Jan. 24
Guinea vs. Gambia (4 pm, Bafoussam)
Cameroon vs. Comoros (7 pm, Yaounde)
Tuesday, Jan. 25
Senegal vs. Cape Verde (4 pm, Bafoussam)
Morocco vs. Malawi (7 pm, Yaounde)
Wednesday, Jan. 26
Ivory Coast vs. Egypt (4 pm, Douala)
Mali vs. Equatorial Guinea (7 pm, Limbe)
Cameroon 5/1 (started tournament 10/1)
Key player - Vincent Aboubakar is Cameroon's second highest ever scorer (30 national goals) after Samuel Eto'o (50). He is the star of the tournament so far and the massively odds-on favourite for the Golden Boot after scoring five goals in his first three games. The 29-year-old has played football in France, Portugal and Turkey but currently plays his football for Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia.
UK based players - James Léa Siliki (Middlesbrough)
Grade and Prediction - A - Cameroon couldn't do much more; after wins over Burkina Faso and Ethiopia, they drew with Cape Verde to top group A. The whole country is behind them and they will be looking to go deep in this tournament. They have a potentially easy route to the semis where they will likely play Egypt or Ivory Coast. Don't bet against them keeping momentum and winning the whole thing.
Nigeria 5/1 (started tournament 11/1)
Key player - Leicester's forward Kelechi Iheanacho. It's goals that gets you through tournaments and Iheanacho will be expected to score the goals for the Super Eagles as they move forward. He has been ably assisted by Nantes' Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze who are both excellent chance creators and have bagged a goal each.
UK based players - Semi Ajayi (West Brom), Joe Aribo (Rangers), Alex Iwobi (Everton), Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi (both Leicester City), Frank Onyeka (Brentford), William Troost-Ekong (Watford)
Grade and Prediction - A+ - Nigeria set their stall out early with a win over Mo Salah's Egypt in the opening game. They followed that with comfortable wins over Sudan and Guinea-Bissau to win the group with ease. They are the only team with a perfect record so far. If they can get past a tough game against Tunisia in the 2nd round then their route looks open to the semi finals where they will likely face Senegal or Mali. We fancy the Super Eagles to make the final.
Senegal - 6/1 (started tournament 9/2)
Key player - Sadio Mané has disappointed like his team. He has scored their only goal in qualifying - a 97th minute penalty. He has more than 60 per cent of all the goals in the Senegalese squad and needs to start firing if they are to go further in the knockouts. Can Mané break Henri Camara's record goal tally of 29 in this tournament? He's currently standing on 27.
UK based players - Seny Dieng (QPR), Cheikhou Kouyaté (Crystal Palace), Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Edouard Mendy (Chelsea), Nampalys Mendy (Leicester City), Ismaila Sarr (Watford)
Grade and Prediction - D - Senegal have looked abject in their three group games but due to their stout defence have somehow topped the group. They haven't scored a goal from open play and were gifted a generous 97th minute penalty for their only win. If they don't pick up their form, the tournament favourites will be heading home. They face a tough looking Semi final versus Mali or Equatorial Guinea.
Morocco 13/2 (started tournament 11/1)
Key player - Pre tournament we tipped up Ilias Chair to be their star man but he's disappointed and not looked fully fit. One man who has stepped up to the plate though is Sofiane Boufal who has scored two goals and been their best player.
UK based players - Ilias Chair (QPR), Imran Louza and Adam Masina (both Watford), Romain Saiss (Wolves),
Grade and Prediction - B - Morocco qualified with ease from group C, helped by the dire performance of group rivals Ghana. They have a tough route to the semi finals. They should beat Malawi but then face a blockbuster QF versus Egypt or Cote D'Ivoire.
Ivory Coast - 7/1 (started tournament 8/1)
Key player - Sébastien Haller has exploded onto the scene and takes over the role of key player from Milan's Franck Kessie. The Ajax star has been in sensational form in the Dutch league(24 goals) and in the Champions League, where he is the leading scorer with 10 goals. The French born player switched to the Ivory Coast set up as recently as 2020 and has started well here with a goal and an assist. Also standing out has been Pepe who has scored twice and been a constant threat down the right.
UK based players - Eric Bailly (Manchester United), Willy Boly (Wolves), Maxwel Cornet (Burnley), Jean Michel Seri (Fulham), Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
Grade and Prediction - B+ - Ivory Coast look very strong. We knew they had a good squad but they have shown team spirit and work rate. If they can get past Egypt they could go all the way here.
Mali - 12/1 (started tournament 25/1)
Key player - Yves Bissouma is a sight to behold playing midfield for Brighton in the Premier League and he has been recalled by Mali for the first time since 2019. He will be a key figure if they are to progress here. Ibrahima Koné has been a revelation since coming on as a sub in the first game. He has scored three goals (all penalties)
UK based players - Yves Bissouma (Brighton), Moussa Djenepo (Southampton)
Grade and Prediction - A- - Mali have been decent so far. They got a little bit of help from a trigger happy ref in their opener versus Tunisia and after a solid draw vs Gambia, they dispatched Mauritania with ease. Topping the group has opened up the draw and they should face Senegal in the quarters. In current form they will fancy themselves to progress.
Egypt - 14/1 (started tournament 8/1)
Key player - Mohamed Salah is favourite for the 2022 Ballon D'or and in most people's minds is the best player on the planet right now. He leads the Premier League in Goals, Shots, Shots on target and Assists, but has started fairly slow here with just the one goal, as Egypt have looked laboured and devoid of creativity.
UK based players - Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Trezeguet (Aston Villa)
Grade and Prediction - C - Egypt lost their opener and looked poor vs a strong Nigeria, They then eked out two steady 1-0 wins in the last two group games. They will need to up their attacking game considerably with Ivory Coast in the 2nd round. Salah needs to come to the party for them to win that one.
Tunisia - 20/1 (started tournament 18/1)
Key player - Wahbi Khazri was a flop at Sunderland but before and since that he has had a brilliant career in France and has scored 22 goals for the Eagles of Carthage. He is the figurehead of the team, their captain and has started the tournament well with two goals and an assist. However, he tested positive for Covid before the game vs The Gambia and a lot will rest on when he can return.
UK based players - Mohamed Drager (Nottingham Forest), Hannibal Mejbri (Manchester United), Omar Rekik (Arsenal)
Grade and Prediction - D - Tunisia scraped through group F as a third placed qualifier and have been rewarded with a stinker against Nigeria. Their only hope is if their Covid stricken players can return. Even then, we feel it is a trip too far.
Burkina Faso 50/1 (started tournament 40/1)
Key player - Edmond Tapsoba is only 22 years old but he has been superb for Bayer Leverkusen since joining from Portugal. He rarely gives the ball away and is a fantastic ball carrier. He hasn't really shone in the tournament thus far and their best two players have probably been Gustavo Sangaré and Bertrand Traoré
UK based players - Bertrand Traore (Aston Villa)
Grade and Prediction - C+ - The Stallions have probably been a bit sub par. They have qualified in second place as expected but haven't really pulled up any trees. They have a chance against Gabon on the 2nd round, but that should be seen as their cup final as they won't progress any further.
Gabon - 50/1 (started tournament 75/1)
Key player - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is not having a good time of it at the moment. First he was shunned at Arsenal due to disciplinary issues and upon landing in Cameroon tested positive for Covid-19. Then he was sent home for medical/disciplinary reasons and will play no part in AFCON 2021. In his place Jim Allevinah has stepped up to the plate, scoring two of Gabon's three goals here
UK based players - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) - left the tournament, Ulrick Eneme Ella (Brighton)
Grade and Prediction - B+ - Gabon did extremely well to qualify given their well publicised problems with Covid and the loss of two of their best players for the tournament. They are unbeaten, which builds confidence, and will be hopeful of beating Burkina Faso in the next round.
Guinea 66/1 (started tournament 50/1)
Key player - Naby Keita has recently fallen out of favour at Liverpool but he is still Guinea's leading player and has been their talisman in this tournament. He scored two goals in AFCON qualification and notched another here.
UK based players - Naby Keita (Liverpool)
Grade and Prediction - C - Guinea had a good start to the tournament with a win and then a creditable draw versus Senegal. This was followed up with a shock loss to Zimbabwe which cost them top place in the group. They have a chance to beat Gambia in round two but will then come up against the behemoth that is the home nation.
Gambia 80/1 (started tournament 100/1)
Key player - Musa Barrow has seen his stock rise since moving to Bologna and has been the driving force for Gambia with a goal and two assists. Their top scorer is Ablie Jallow
UK based players - Ebou Adams (Forest Green Rovers), Ibou Touray (Salford City)
Grade and Prediction - B+ - Gambia had a superb qualification winning two and drawing once and will be delighted to pip Tunisia to 2nd spot. They will fancy themselves against Guinea in the last 16.
Cape Verde - 100/1 (started tournament same odds)
Key player - Their best players have been defenders but Julio Taveres and Garry Rodrigues have stood out going forward
UK based players - None
Grade and Prediction - B- - The Blue Sharks had a couple of great results which helped with qualification. Firstly beating Ethiopia and then gaining a cracking draw vs Cameroon last time out. They face a tough knock out match vs Senegal but given the favouriites struggles will think they have a sniff of a chance.
Malawi - 150/1 (started tournament 500/1)
Key player - Gabadinho Mhango has 13 goals for the national team. The Orlando Pirates striker is 29 years old and has bagged twice already in AFCON 2021.
UK based players - None
Grade and Prediction - A - I owe the Flames an apology. I predicted they had no chance of qualification and they did it. They will be big outsiders versus Morocco, however.
Equatorial Guinea - 250/1 (started tournament 500/1)
Key player - Their most famous player Pedro Obiang is unavailable through injury. Leading scorer and captain Emilio Nsue will be familiar to Middlesbrough fans but he hasn't played for a few months now and the majority of the rest of the squad are all lower league players. It's going to be a very tough ask.
UK based players - None
Grade and Prediction - A+ - Again I got this one wrong. Not only did they not finish bottom, but won two games and finished 2nd above Sierra Leone and holders Algeria! I'm not going to count them out against Mali.
Comoros - 250/1 (started tournament 500/1)
Key player - 32 year old El Fardou Ben Nabouhane has scored almost 50 goals in just over three seasons in Serbia , playing up front for Red Star Belgrade. Leading scorer in the competition is Ahmed Mogni with two.
UK based players - None
Grade and Prediction - A* - The debutants have been magnificent and can come again! The Coelacanths have punched above their weight and finished above Ghana to qualify. Cameroon should finish their dreams off here though.