The Africa Cup of Nations is nearing the finish line, with the two semi finals set to take place on Wednesday and Thursday evenings this week.
The first of the semi’s will see Burkino Faso take on Egypt, and although the latter are rated favourites by the bookmakers, it promises to be a tight match. Both of these teams regularly feature in low-scoring games, and both are unbeaten at the competition so far. Egypt have’t even conceded a goal in the last six matches – which have garnered five wins and one 0-0 draw. Burkino Faso might be punching above their weight to a degree, but they are yet to lose at AFCON 2017, despite playing hosts Gabon and good quality sides in Cameroon and Tunisia.
Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions feature in Thursday’s semi final against the Black Stars of Ghana. Cameroon knocked out favourites Senegal in the weekend’s quarter final, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane missing the decisive penalty in the shoot out after the sides played out a 0-0 draw. That extra thirty minutes will surely take a toll on the players, but it’s worth remembering that they played 24 hours before Ghana, who beat DR Congo on Sunday. The Black Stars secured a 2-1 victory courtesy of Andre Ayew’s late penalty, a goal that also saw the West Ham striker draw level with Asamoah Gyan as Ghana’s leading Africa Cup of Nations goalscorer with eight.
Ghana v Cameroon
On to the action, and the Black Stars are a tempting price at +159 with Marathonbet to get the job done in 90 minutes.
Ghana scored 1-0 wins over Uganda and Mali to secure qualification for the knockout stages with a group game to spare. Understandably they opted to rest players in that final group match against Egypt, which they lost 1-0. That saw then qualify in 2nd position, and may also explain why the Egyptians have now been installed as slight favourites to lift the trophy. However, it’s reasonable to draw a line through that result considering that Egpyt needed a result but Ghana were already looking ahead to the quarter finals. They came up against DR Congo in the last eight – a side that had finished top of group C ahead of Morocco and current champions Ivory Coast. Brothers Jordan and Andre Ayew were the two goalscorers in that match – playing in a front three with Newcastle’s Atsu. With Gyan ready to step off the bench, Ghana possess a decent goal threat.
Cameroon have done little wrong so far in the tournament – and going further back they are unbeaten in eleven internationals since losing to France in a friendly back in May 2016. However, six of the last eight games have ended all square, during which time they’ve only won on two occasions. At this tournament their group started with 1-1 draw against Burkino Faso, before they beat competition minnows Guinea-Bissau 2-1. A 0-0 draw in the final group match with hosts Gabon was enough to see them through in second place in group A.
Another 0-0 followed in the quarter final with Senegal, but in truth the Lions of Teranga were made to pay for a number of missed chances. There would have been few complaints had Senegal won the game in which they dominated but failed to convert chances, but Cameroon rode their luck and retained their nerve at the crucial moment. Liverpool fans will be delighted to have Sadio Mane back to boost their faltering domestic campaign, but Africa’s most expensive player will be devastated to have missed the penalty.
It would be no great surprise to see another tight match, but Ghana are arguably the better side and are worth supporting at a generous price.
Burkino Faso v Egypt
The second of the semi finals is another tight affair and the value may lie with the draw, where +210 is on offer at Betway.
Plenty of punters will want to side with Egypt – they have the greater international pedigree and are in excellent form – but goals have been hard to come by. Four of Egypt’s last five have ended 1-0. Tunisia, Uganda, Ghana and Morocco the four sides beaten, while the odd result out was the 0-0 group draw with Mali.
That draw coupled with the 1-0 success over Uganda put Egypt in a very strong position to qualify for the knockout stages, but they still had to secure at least a draw with Ghana in the final match to be certain. The 1-0 win came courtesy of Roma’s Salah, and that put them through to face Morocco in the quarters. An 88th minute goal from Kahraba gave Egypt a slender victory – but that result and the 0-0 draw with Mali raise an air of caution.
Burkino Faso will be a very difficult team to break down, and this match could easily be one of the more conservative games at the tournament. Burkino Faso drew both opening group games 1-1 with Gabon and Cameroon, before a 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau took them through to the last eight. Two late goals secured a 2-0 victory over Tunisia to give them their second clean sheet in a row and a place in the last four. The Tunisians are a decent side which finished 2nd in group B behind Senegal, so Burkino Faso need not be overawed by the opposition here. They’ve only lost three times in the last 15 internationals – Egypt have lost twice in the same amount of games.
It’s a short price, but a bet that looks to have every chance of landing. Incredibly 13 of Burkino Faso’s last 15 matches have had two or less goals, while Egypt’s record stands at 14 of the last 15 going ‘under’. In a match of such magnitude it would be no great surprise at all to see a low-scoring game.
Ghana to beat Cameroon
Thursday 2nd February, 19:00 GMT
Burkino Faso & Egypt to Draw
Wednesday 1st February, 19:00 GMT
Burkino Faso v Egypt – Under 2.5 Goals
Wednesday 1st February, 19:00 GMT