African Nations Cup Day 4 Tips: Back Ivory Coast to turn on the style

Ajax and Ivory Coast striker Sebastien Haller
Sebastien Haller will lead the attack for Ivory Coast on Wednesday

James Eastham looks at the smart bets across the three games taking place in Cameroon on Wednesday...

"Last year Ivory Coast scored 18 times in 10 internationals, often running up big winning scorelines against weaker sides."

Best Bet: Back Ivory Coast -1.5 Asian Handicap vs Equatorial Guinea @ 1.9520/21

Equatorial Guinea vs Ivory Coast (Group E)
Wed, 19:00 GMT

The Elephants ready to start strongly

Ivory Coast are potentially one of the tournament's most exciting sides and will attract plenty of attention on their first outing in Cameroon.

They're 1.261/4 favourites to win on Wednesday evening against Equatorial Guinea, among the competition's outsiders.

Equatorial Guinea are 251.0250/1 to win the entire thing, the longest odds of any nation (alongside Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Comoros and Sudan).

The question is: will Ivory Coast make their superiority pay by winning handsomely or will they struggle to break down the underdogs' defence, as so many favourites do in African Nations Cups games?

We back Ivory Coast to win well. First, there's the array of attacking talent on view: Sebastien Haller, Wilfried Zaha, Nicolas Pepe, Wuhan's Jean-Evrard Kouassi and also Maxwel Cornet, outstanding at Burnley this season.

There's also Ivory Coast's recent results. They scored 18 times in 10 internationals in 2021, often running up big winning scorelines against weaker sides.

Last year Ivory Coast beat Niger 3-0 (a), Ethiopia 3-1 (h), Malawi 3-0 (a) and Mozambique 3-1 (h). A similar winning scoreline would be no surprise here.

In the Winning Margin market on the Sportsbook, you can back Ivory Coast to win by exactly 2 goals at 3.55/2 and Ivory Coast to win by exactly 3 goals at 5.59/2.

Alternatively, we prefer Ivory Coast -1.5 Asian Handicap at close to evens. With this selection, you'll make a profit as long as Patrice Beaumelle's side win by two or more goals. For a full guide to Asian Handicap betting, click here.

The day's other two games are likely to be lower-scoring.

Tight affair predicted

Tunisia vs Mali (Group F)
Wed, 13:00 GMT

Tunisia vs Mali is a repeat of a friendly from June last year that ended in a 1-0 win for Tunisia. This may be a cat-and-mouse affair, as we often see when the top two sides in a group meet in the group phase.

Tunisia were a high-scoring side in 2021 (20 goals in 11 matches) but the only time they faced a top nation, they failed to find the net (2-0 home defeat vs Algeria).

Covid outbreak could limit goals

Mauritania vs Gambia (Group F)
Wed, 16:00 GMT

We predict Mauritania vs Gambia will be a low-scoring affair as well. Mauritania struggled for goals in 2021, scoring just four times in nine matches.

Gambia have better attacking potential - look out for centre-forward Assan Ceesay, who has 11 goals in 23 international appearances and is the Swiss Super League's second-highest scorer with 11 goals in 17 games for Zurich this season.

Yet a covid outbreak in the camp has hampered Gambia's preparations. As a result, there's no guarantee they'll be able to field a full-strength side.

This should weaken Gambia's attacking potential, which would play into Mauritania's hands.

We flagged up earlier this week that 75% of all group games at the last three African Nations Cup finals have had two goals or fewer. We recommended backing Under 2.0 on the Goal Lines markets on both the Mali vs Tunisia and Mauritania vs Gambia fixtures.

Prem Watch

Wilfried Zaha 1280 friendly.jpg

Ivory Coast's squad boasts no fewer than five Premier League players, many of whom will expect to be in the Elephants' starting line-up on Wednesday evening.

Wolves' Willy Boly and Manchester United's Eric Bailly are contenders at the back, while the Premier League trio of Maxwel Cornet, Nicolas Pepe and Wilfried Zaha are all capable of causing havoc on the wings. The only issue will be how to fit them all in given there are other attacking talents in the squad.

When Tunisia face Mali, two youngsters on the books of Premier League clubs may feature for the north Africans: Arsenal's 20-year-old centre-back Omar Rekik may be on the bench for Tunisia, while Manchester United's 18-year-old France-born midfielder Hannibal Mejbri (nine caps, one goal) stands a stronger chance of featuring. Southampton's Moussa Djenepo and Brighton's Yves Bissouma will be in the opposition ranks.

Gambia and Equatorial Guinea's squads contain no Premier League players.

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JAMES' 2022 AFRICAN NATIONS CUP P/L

Staked: 5pts
Returned: +3.95pts
P/L: -1.05pts

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