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African Nations Cup Last 16: Attacking stars set to take centre stage

Swansea City and Ghana striker Jordan Ayew
Jordan Ayew has already scored once at the tournament and will be a key player for Ghana again

Expect thrilling football when some of the strongest sides in the tournament make their eagerly-awaited entry into the knockout phase on Monday, writes James Eastham...

"Ivory Coast have one of the tournament's best forward lines while Mali underlined their own scoring credentials with their 4-1 win over Mauritania."

Best Bet: Back 'Yes' in Both teams to Score? market in Mali vs Ivory Coast @ 2.56/4

Back goals at both ends of pitch

Mali vs Ivory Coast
Monday 8 July, 17:00 BST
Live on Eurosport 2

The 2.245/4 on Ivory Coast to win isn't worth touching based on their three group-phase performances as a whole but looks too large if you stick simply to assessing their 4-1 final group-game win over Namibia.

And therein the difficulty: which Ivory Coast will turn up? During what turned out to be an erratic group phase from them, the Elephants were disappointing in beating South Africa 1-0 and then losing by the same scoreline to a moderate Morocco but showed a tantalising glimpse of what a force they can be when they blew away an admittedly poor Namibia to clinch their last-16 place.

Maxwel Cornet, Max Gradel, Wilfried Zaha and Nicolas Pepe constitute one of the tournament's finest attacking line-ups and have the potential here to secure a win in 90 minutes for Ivory Coast in some style. Yet Mali should not be underestimated: the Eagles topped Group E (W2-D1-L0) and underlined their own attacking credentials with six goals scored, including a 4-1 win over Mauritania.

The attacking strength of both sides provides the best betting opportunity: 'Yes' in the Both teams to Score? market is available at 2.56/4 and Over 2.5 Goals at 3.185/40, both of which look too large. At the time of writing only eight out of 38 (21%) games have featured three or more goals, but this promises to be one of the more open and entertaining games of the tournament so far.

Well-matched rivals cannot be split

Ghana vs Tunisia
Monday 8 July, 20:00 BST
Live on Eurosport 2

Ghana are clear favourites to win this tie but I would question whether the Black Stars have enough quality to justify their status to see off Tunisia. Ghana are 2.68/5 to win in 90 minutes, with Tunisia 3.45 and The Draw 2.915/8.

Of those three selections The Draw's the most appealing as there appears to be little difference in class between these teams. We flagged up earlier in the tournament that Ghana are a top-heavy team with eye-catching quality stacked up top. Andre and Jordan Ayew have netted three of Ghana's four goals to date and will be more important than ever as winger Christian Atsu has been ruled out of the tournament by injury.

In the mood, Ghana can produce intense, energetic displays for 30 minutes or so that leave their adversaries drained. This was evident when they scored twice in 34 minutes against Benin (2-0 win) and twice in 27 minutes against Guinea Bissau (another 2-0 win).

Tunisia drew all three of their group games, so while they're difficult to beat they have lacked the necessary cutting edge to win games. Manager Alain Giresse hasn't got the best out of his players but the potential's there: holding midfielder Ellyes Skhiri, winger Naim Sliti and striker Wahbi Khazri have the quality to ensure this is a tough afternoon for Ghana.

A close game is likely because these two teams are so well-matched on paper. Five of six fixtures involving these sides have ended in stalemates, and we're happy to back this game to be level after 90 minutes, too.


James’ tournament P/L

Staked: 40pts
Returned: +44.60pts
P/L: +4.60pts

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