Author: Paul Reece
Published: 18:34 05/10/2014
Morocco host the 2015 African Cup of Nations with reigning champions Nigeria expected to be one of a handful of sides who will fancy their chances of winning the title.
The Super Eagles won their third African Cup of Nations title in 2013 with victory over surprise finalists Burkina Faso and performed admirably at the World Cup last summer. If you want to bet on this year’s winner, meanwhile, Coral will give you a free £20 bet, if you bet £5 today.
Algeria, who also impressed at the World Cup, reaching the last-16, are also expected to do well along with African heavyweights Cameroon and the Ivory Coast while Ghana and Senegal should also reach the finals.
Algeria’s impressive 2014 World Cup performance saw the nation climb up to 20th in the latest Fifa rankings, making the Desert Warriors the highest ranking African side. Christian Gourcuff replaced Vahid Halilhodzic after the World Cup, however, after the the coach decided against renewing his contract following Algeria’s impressive performances in Brazil. The team surpassed expectations, reaching the last-16, finishing second in their group behind Belgium but ahead of South Korea and Russia. Germany finally brought an end to their run, however, although the eventual World Cup winners needed extra-time to defeat their African counterparts.
Nigeria also reached the last-16 in South America. The Super Eagles drew 0-0 with Iran in the opening match before defeating Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 in their second game, their first win in the finals since 1998. The African side then lost 3-2 to eventual runners-up Argentina but advanced despite the defeat and faced France in the next round. The European’s prevailed but were made to work for the victory, with Paul Pogba’s 79th minute strike and Joseph Yobo’s injury-time own goal sealing Nigeria’s fate.
Cameroon, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, meanwhile, all failed to escape the group stages. Cameroon lost all three matches in Group A, conceding nine goals against Brazil, Mexico and Croatia. While the Ivory Coast lost two of their three matches, losing to Colombia and Greece and beating Japan, finishing 3rd in the group and returning home disappointed. And Ghana finished bottom of a difficult group, narrowly losing to the USA and Portugal but holding World Cup winners Germany to a 2-2 draw.
Burkina Faso were surprise finalists in 2013, meanwhile, with Belgium coach Paul Put leading his side to the final two. The Stallions narrowly missed out on a place at the 2014 World Cup, losing out on the away-goal rule against Algeria. Alain Traore has a superb record up front, netting 17 goals in 33 appearances while Lyon’s Bakary Kone is a rock at the heart of the Burkina Faso defence. Put’s men should ease through their group against Lesotho, Gabon and Angola and should not be underestimated.
Egypt have won the competition a record seven times, including three times between 2006 and 2010 but face a battle to qualify after losing their opening two matches against Tunisia and Senegal in their qualifying group. The Egyptian’s two group rivals both sit inside the top-40 countries in the World and will both expect to do well in Morocco.
The final team to look out for could be Cape Verde, who have climbed up to 41st in the latest Fifa rankings. The Blue Sharks reached their first Cup of Nations in 2013 when they defeated Cameroon in the qualification play-offs. The nation impressed in South Africa, reaching the last-eight before falling against Ghana. They are looking a safe bet to reach the finals once again and with a host of their current squad playing in Europe they should ease past Zambia, Mozambique and Niger in their qualification group.