Ivory Coast v Mali Preview

AFCON 2015, Group D | Saturday 24 January | Malabo | 18:00




The first round of matches in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations started in similar fashion to the 2013 edition where five of the first eight matches ended in draws. Up until now the earlier games have been playing in scorching conditions, and both sides will have hopefully adapted to these hotter than usual circumstances.

To Win (90mins)
Ivory Coast 5/10
Draw 19/10
Mali 19/10

IVORY COAST

Ivory Coast fought back to draw their Africa Cup of Nations opener with Guinea, despite having Gervinho sent off early in the second half. Guinea took a 36th-minute lead. Ex-Arsenal striker Gervinho, who had hit the bar in the first half, was dismissed on 58 minutes for a slap.

The 1992 AFCON champions rescued themselves when Seydou Doumbia slotted low into the corner. That outcome seemed unlikely when Gervinho was given his marching orders - he had been by far the game's best player, while his team-mates had looked well short of their potential.

Boasting the attacking talents of Wilfried Bony, now one of Africa's most expensive players since his £28m move to Manchester City, plus his new club-mate Yaya Toure and Gervinho, the Elephants were expected to win comfortably.

The West African Elephants have the ability in depth to win just about any AFCON game on paper. With some of the most prolific attacking prowess, it’s no wonder Mali have never beaten these giants before. Of their three previous encounters, it was their most recent matchup in an AFCON 2012 semi-final when Mali came closest to a result, going down 1-0 courtesy of a 45th minute Gervinho goal. You must feel that coach, Herve Renard, will be confident on the back of this history going into the fixture.

MALI

Group D saw both fixtures ending in draws with Mali managing a point against a highly rated Cameroon in the later game on Tuesday evening.

Sambou Yatabare had put Mali ahead when he drilled home a low shot from inside the six-yard box but Cameroon eventually got an equalizer to finish the match at 1-1.

Mali come up against Ivory Coast as underdogs, but with everything on the line in this type of competition, Mali will feel more than usual, that an upset is ever possible.

Nicknamed The Eagles, their build up to AFCON 2015 hasn’t been great. They were whipped by 3-0 by South Africa in their only warm up game, with their other scheduled friendly against Gabon being cancelled, and if it wasn’t for their last round qualifying win over giants, Algeria, they may well not have found themselves in the tournament.

Their talisman, Seydou Keita, who recently became the most capped Malian international ever, will have to have his side at their best to compete.

Betting Verdict: DRAW 19/10
Despite this being do-or-die nature of competition, I always feel a mix of strong youth and experience is key. Mali have that somewhat, but not on the same scope as the Ivory Coast. Expect a cagey affair, but over 90 minutes I see the Elephants prevailing here.

Written by The Caretaker Coach for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

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