Group A: Betting Offers, Free Bets and Betting Tips
Check out everything you need to know about Group A in the Africa Cup of Nations, which features Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea. Find the latest Africa Cup of Nations free bets and betting offers here, as well as the latest tips from our team of experts.
Ivory Coast are the tournament hosts and will fancy themselves to go deep into the tournament, and hopefully match the achievements of the ‘golden generation’, with the likes of leading Sébastien Haller leading the way with Franck Kessié and Serge Aurier in support, while Nigeria will also be expecting to qualify.
Group A Fixtures
All kick off times shown are GMT
Saturday 13 January- 8pm: Ivory Coast 2-0 Guinea-Bissau
Sunday 14 January- 2pm: Nigeria 1-1 Equatorial Guinea
Thursday 18 January- 2pm: Equatorial Guinea 4-2 Guinea-Bissau
Thursday 18 January- 5pm: Ivory Coast 0-1 Nigeria
Monday 22 January- 5pm: Guinea-Bissau 0-1 Nigeria
Monday 22 January- 5pm: Equatorial Guinea 4-0 Ivory Coast
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Group A Team Profiles
FIFA World Ranking: 50.
Best AFCON Performance: Champions (1992 & 2015).
Ivory Coast Tip
Ivory Coast′s star player: Sébastien Haller
This team does feature many familiar faces, but Sébastien Haller is the star.
Since switching allegiance from France and making his debut little over three years ago, Haller has scored eight goals in 21 appearances for Côte d’Ivoire, all coming in competitive games. He was on target against Sierra Leone at the most-recent AFCON, before netting four more times in 2023, including breaking the deadlock in November’s 9-0 demolition of Seychelles.
Given all the diminutive, skillful attacking players in the les Éléphants’ squad, having a lethal target man like Haller massively elevates this team’s celling.
Ivory Coast′s manager: Jean-Louis Gasset
Jean-Louis Gasset is the man tasked with leading Côte d’Ivoire to Africa Cup of Nations glory on home soil.
The 70-year-old spent his entire playing career with Montpellier, subsequently managing la Paillade as well as Caen, Saint-Étienne, Bordeaux and others, with this his first international coaching role. As Ivory Coast head coach, Gasset favours a 4-3-3 formation, although he has deployed an ultra-attacking back three against weaker opposition, namely Seychelles and Lesotho.
His back-line features Nottingham Forest duo Willy Boly and Serge Aurier, while centre-back Evan Ndicka is a massive edition, having only switched allegiance in June of this year.
Another Forest man Ibrahim Sangaré alongside Franck Kessié sit at the base of midfield, allowing Seko Fofana to get forward and support the front three.
If fit, Haller will be the centre-forward, with any of Simon Adingra, Hamed Traorè, Jérémie Boga, Amad or Wilfried Zaha chosen out-wide; good problems to have if you’re Gasset.
Ivory Coast′s Africa Cup of Nations history
Côte d’Ivoire are two-times Africa Cup of Nations winners, beating Ghana on penalties in the finals of 1992 and 2015, both times after 120 goalless minutes.
They’ve also been ousted in seven semi-finals and two finals, defeated in a shootout by Egypt in 2006 and Zambia in 2012, again both following 0-0 draws.
Since most-recently getting their hands on the trophy, les Éléphants have got no further than the quarter-finals, ousted by Algeria in 2019, before a Round of 16 exit against Egypt two years ago, both times on penalties again.
Overall, since 1992, Ivory Coast have reached the knockout phase 11 times but have remarkably been involved in ten penalty shootouts during this period, winning only four, losing six of the last eight.
Everything you need to know about Ivory Coast
As is always the case when a traditional heavyweight hosts the Africa Cup of Nations, they’re under enormous pressure to lift the trophy.
This is the 34th edition and only 11 hosts have ever won AFCON: Egypt (1959, 1986 & 2006), Ethiopia (1962), Ghana (1963 & 1978), Sudan (1970), Nigeria (1980) Algeria (1990), South Africa (1996) and Tunisia (2004).
In modern times, the hosts have only been triumphant at two of the last 13 editions.
Nevertheless, the expectation is that Ivory Coast will become the first nation to achieve this for 18 years.
This tournament might come at just the right time for les Éléphants, who are at the start of a rebuild.
Côte d’Ivoire qualified for three successive World Cups between 2006 and 2014, but have not been at either of the last two, failing to even get through to the final round of qualifying for Qatar.
This year though, they’ve began 2026 qualification with two wins out of two, and are firm favourites to top Group F, with Gabon their most-likely competitors, thereby booking their place stateside.
On the pitch, Ivory Coast have one of the strongest teams at this tournament, if not quite the best, so are more than capable of going all the way.
FIFA World Ranking: 42.
Best AFCON Performance: Champions (1980, 1994 & 2013).
Nigeria′s star player- Victor Osimhen
Nigeria have plenty of high-level players in their ranks, but Victor Osimhen ranks above all the rest as he is simply world class.
For Napoli last season, he scored 31 goals in 38 Serie A and Champions League appearances, firing I Partenopei to their first Scudetto since 1990. At international level, he’s scored 20 times in 28 caps, with seven of these goals coming in two qualifiers against minnows São Tomé and Príncipe.
This helped Osimhen be the top-scorer in AFCON qualifying with 10.
Nigeria′s manager- José Peseiro
José Peseiro was appointed Nigeria manager in May 2022, continuing his long, varied and diverse managerial career.
He has managed 14 different clubs, including Sporting CP, Porto, Braga, Vitória de Guimarães, Panathinaikos, Rapid București, Al-Hilal and Al Ahly, as well as the national teams of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. At this tournament, he could become the first Portuguese manager to win AFCON.
Under Peseiro, the Super Eagles have usually played out of a 4-4-2, with this largely to accommodate the gluttony of attacking players at his disposal.
As well as Osimhen, Kelechi Ịheanachọ, Victor Boniface and Umar Sadiq are all vying to start up front, while Samu Chukwueze, Ademola Lookman, Alex Iwobi and Nathan Tella could all be deployed out-wide.
Wilfred Ndidi and Frank Onyeka are the first-choice midfielders, with Calvin Bassey their star defender. This though is a top-heavy team, which may preclude them from making a deep run.
Nigeria′s Africa Cup of Nations history
Nigeria are three-times Africa Cup of Nations champions, getting their hands on the trophy in 1980, 1994 and 2013, beating Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final in Johannesburg just over a decade ago.
The Super Eagles have also lost in a further four finals and eight semi-finals, ousted in the last four by Algeria in 2019.
At the most-recent edition in 2022, Nigeria were beaten by Tunisia in the round of 16, thereby failing to reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since 1982 (excluding when they failed to qualify altogether).
Everything you need to know about Nigeria
As ever, Nigeria are amongst the favourites to go all the way at an Africa Cup of Nations, but we’re sceptical about their chances.
The Super Eagles have made a very underwhelming start to World Cup qualifying, held to 1-1 draws by both Lesotho and Zimbabwe in November, falling behind both times.
Thus, they’ll need to improve or risk missing out on back-to-back World Cups for the first time since Italia ‘90. As mentioned above, this team is jam-packed full of attacking talent, but is very suspect at the back.
Francis Uzoho of Omonia is their first-choice goalkeeper; he’s most famous for putting in a man of the match display at Old Trafford in a 1-0 defeat last season. Midfield duo Frank Onyeka and Wilfried Ndidi are asked to cover a lot of ground, doing all the dirty work to allow the ultra-talented attackers to do their stuff.
Thus, we expect Nigeria to cruise through this group but then not get much further, finding it tougher when they come up against a well-drilled, defensively solid side in the knockout phase.
Nevertheless, their clash with hosts Côte d’Ivoire at Stade Olympique d’Ebimpé on Thursday 18 January is one of the group stage fixtures not to be missed.
FIFA World Ranking: 103.
Best AFCON Performance: Group stage (2017, 2019, 2022).
Guinea-Bissau′s star player- Franculino Djú
In the absence of any world class stars, we’re highlighting a teenaged talent in the Guinea-Bissau ranks.
Franculino Djú has only won three senior caps for the Djurtus, but marked his debut with a goal against Sierra Leone earlier this year.
The 19-year-old joined FC Midtjylland in Denmark in the summer, scoring 12 goals in just 18 outings for them, including a 21 minute hat-trick in his first-ever appearance in UEFA competition against Omonia.
Guinea-Bissau′s manager- Baciro Candé
Baciro Candé has been the Head Coach since 2017, his second spell in charge, with a brief period managing AD Oeiras, a lower-tier Portuguese club, in-between.
He uses a back four, overseen by goalkeeper Jonas Mendes, who’s the squad’s most experienced player.
Mama Baldé of Lyon will be amongst their most threatening attackers, while there’s EFL interest in the shape of Baba Fernandes (Accrington), Mamadi Camará (Reading) and Carlos Mendes Gomes (Bolton).
Guinea-Bissau′s Africa Cup of Nations history
Guinea-Bissau made their Africa Cup of Nations debut as recently as 2017, but they’ve now qualified for four successive editions.
At each of the last three, the Djurtus have gone home after the group phase with just a point to their name, holding Gabon (2017), Benin (2019) and Sudan (2022) to draws.
Only Benin (14), who did win a shootout, and Mozambique (12) have played more AFCON matches without ever winning one.
Everything you need to know about Guinea-Bissau
Given all of that, Guinea-Bissau’s aim at this tournament will be to win a game.
Unfortunately, they’ve found themselves in a bit of a group of death, but their matchday two clash with Equatorial Guinea in Abidjan is defiantly their most winnable fixture.
Baciro Candé's team will feature in the tournament’s first match against Côte d’Ivoire, very much cast in the role of cannon fodder, so can they cause a huge upset on opening night?
FIFA World Ranking: 88.
Best AFCON Performance: Fourth place (2015).
Equatorial Guinea Tip
Equatorial Guinea′s star player- Emilio Nsue
Still going strong at the age of 34, Emilio Nsue is an absolute legend of Equatoguinean football.
He won the U19 and U21 Euros with Spain, before switching international allegiance in 2013, scoring a hat-trick on his debut against Cape Verde, in a match that was later forfeited and these goals whipped from history.
Nevertheless, Nsue has since scored 17 times that have counted, including scoring against both Namibia and Liberia in November qualifiers.
At club level, he’s certainly bounced around, representing Mallorca, Real Sociedad, Birmingham City, Middlesbrough, APOEL, Apollon Limassol, Tuzla City and now CF Intercity in Spain’s third-tier.
Equatorial Guinea′s manager- Juan Micha
The National Thunder are managed by Juan Micha, who took over in 2020, having previously coached the women’s team, the U17s and U20s; he’s very much a company man.
Micha favours a classic Spanish 4-2-3-1, prioritising midfield control and possession.
The vast majority of his squad ply their trade in Spain, often in lower divisions, although clubs in USA, Italy, Moldova, Greece, Portugal, Czechia, Tunisia, England and South Africa are also represented.
Equatorial Guinea′s Africa Cup of Nations history
This will be only Equatorial Guinea’s fourth Africa Cup of Nations appearance but, whenever they feature, they always make their mark.
On debut as co-hosts in 2012, the National Thunder beat both Libya and Senegal before being smashed by Côte d’Ivoire in the quarter-finals.
Three years later, they hosted again and this time went one better, enjoying an unlikely remontada against Tunisia in the quarter-finals, before being dumped out by Ghana in the last four.
Two years ago, Equatorial Guinea featured at a first AFCON on foreign soil but, again, they exceeded expectations, overcoming Mali in the round of 16 before a 3-1 loss at the hands of eventual winners Senegal.
Everything you need to know about Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea may not be one of the huge names of African football, nor are they likely winners, but they are a team no one will relish facing.
Juan Micha’s side were impressive during qualifying, ending that campaign with a memorable 1-0 victory over Tunisia in Malabo back in June.
They also began World Cup qualifying with back-to-back 1-0 wins, beating both Liberia and Namibia, so are dreaming of a World Cup debut come 2026.
This team have conceded just 17 goals in their last 21 competitive fixtures, four of which came in one game in Tūnis.
As a result, we’re backing them to get out of this group, probably by hammering Guinea-Bissau on matchday two, and then in the knockout stages, anything can happen.