It has twice been rescheduled, but on January 9, the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations will finally kick-off and a month of top-class international action can begin.
Who do Bettors Favor?
Although 14 different nations have won this tournament, in the last three decades, five teams: Egypt, Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast have dominated, winning 13 of the 16 editions since 1990. Those names once again dominate the futures markets at the main online sportsbooks, although it is the 2019 beaten finalists Senegal who are judged narrow favorites by most bookmakers.
North African powerhouses Algeria and Egypt, with their Premier League stars are rated second and third in the betting with the Ivory Coast and Nigeria close behind, along with hosts Cameroon.
How Will AFCON 2022 Work?
The AFCON format follows the standard even-numbered group structure with six sections of four teams from which sixteen teams progress to the knock-out rounds.
As ever, some Groups are tougher than others. Hosts Cameroon have a relatively straightforward lineup to contend with in Group A, as do Senegal in Group B. But the draw has been less kind to Egypt, who have ended up in a section with rival top five side Nigeria, while Algeria, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone – who drew twice with Nigeria in qualifying – make up what looks like a tough Group E.
Which Team Will Win AFCON 2022?
Senegal are edging favoritism in the Futures markets for several reasons. They were narrow losers in the 2019 final against Algeria, but are arguably stronger this time round, thanks partly to the continuity of keeping the same coach – Aliou Cisse – at the helm since 2015. The core of their squad is made up of a group of highly-rated top-tier stars who play in Europe, including Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, the rock of the Napoli side, Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gana Gueye of PSG, and Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy.
Although the holders Algeria will boast one of the deadliest forward lines in the competition, consisting of Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani, and Adam Ounas, Senegal look to have slightly more strength in depth, particularly in defense, which could make the difference in a tournament that is often low scoring.
Seven-time tournament winners Egypt will field a forward line that could match that of Algeria, headed by the lightning speed and eye for goal of Mohammed Salah, but if you wanted an alternative to Senegal, the Ivory Coast could be a better option. The Elephants will have one of the strongest defenses in the competition featuring Eric Bailly and Serge Aurier, as well as Nicolas Pepe and Wilfried Zaha up front, and having reached the quarter finals of the 2020 Olympics they have strong recent tournament form.
Which Other Teams Could Win AFCON 2021?
As ever the Nigerian squad is long on talent but short on success, and in contrast to some of their rivals, they have opted to roll the dice on a new coach, appointing Augustine Eguavoen only a month ago. That upheaval suggests that bettors should be wary until they have seen how well the team plays for their new coach in serious competition before parting with any money.
Host nation Cameroon will have some market support, but home advantage hasn’t proven to be a huge advantage in recent years. Although the tournament has been won by the host nation ten times, it hasn’t happened since 2006. Cameroon lack the talent of some of their main market rivals, although a favorable First Round draw will help their chances.
A better option at bigger odds could be Tunisia. Having given a good account of themselves in the 2018 World Cup, where they came close to earning a draw with England, they reached the semi-finals of the 2019 tournament and cruised through their qualifying section for this competition without losing a game last year finished as runners-up in the Arab Cup, beating Egypt in the semi-final. They have a relatively easy first-round Group and should give you a good run for your money here.
Mane the Pick for Golden Boot
The three Premier League stars: Salah, Mahrez and Mane, dominate the Top Goalscorer markets ahead of the tournament and all of them have strong credentials, but the two Liverpool stars offer better options.
Both Salah and Mane can benefit from being the undisputed main striker for their nations, while Mahrez is part of a dangerous three-man attack, and it is notable that he didn’t claim the Golden Boot in 2019 when Algeria won the tournament. Salah has had the more prolific season for his club than his teammate, but Mane looks overpriced in this market. And it could be worth wagering on Sebastian Haller of the Ivory Coast, who has been in sensational form with Ajax this season.