Soccer Betting News - SA's Leading Soccer Betting Newspaper: A closer look at this year’s dark horses in the African Cup of Nations

A closer look at this year’s dark horses in the African Cup of Nations

Hamdi Fathi and Hannibal Mejbri

There has been a lot of public relations drama surrounding the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. Building up to the tournament, there have been reports of civil war in the host nation, Cameroon, and there has been a debate regarding the safety of players with Covid-19 still around.

The time for talk is over, though. The tournament presents, not only Cameroon, but Africa a chance to showcase the world the rich talent it possesses.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah will lead Egypt’s charge, his teammate Sadio Mane spearheads Senegal while Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez is with the defending champions, Algeria.

There is little doubt that these teams, and Nigeria, are hot favourites to go for it. With under a week to go, we look at nations that could cause an ‘upset’ at the 2021 AFCON.

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FIFA Ranking: 50
AFCON Qualifiers Record: Played 6 | Won 3 | Drew 2 | Lost 1

Cameroon has won the AFCON five times in their history, and will no doubt be looking to add a sixth, carrying the added boost of being the host nation and the inspiration of their recently elected FA president, Samuel Eto’o. It feels like a ‘ceremonial’ mention when one considers the talent bolstered by the likes of Senegal, Nigeria, and Egypt (who hold the record for most AFCON titles with seven), but the benefit of being home may just give The Indomitable Lions an extra boost.

They will look to players such as goalkeeper Andre Onana, who seems to be on his way to Inter Milan, Frank Zambo Anguissa (Napoli, Italy), and Moumi Ngamaleu (Young Boys, Switzerland). All who have done well with clubs in Europe this season.

Their opening match is on the 9th of January against a tricky opponent, Burkina Faso, who haven’t lost in their last 23 games.

Ivory Coast

FIFA Ranking: 56
AFCON Qualifiers Record: Played 6 | Won 4 | Drew 1 | Lost 1

Cote d'Ivoire last won this competition in 2015, which is not a very long time ago. This year, they may feel they have one of the most dangerous attacking forwards in the competition with the likes of Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal, England), Wilfred Zaha (Crystal Palace, England), Franck Kessie (AC Milan, Italy) and Sebastian Haller (Ajax, Netherlands).

Having good players on paper and having them gel in a competition isn’t the same, however. There was a lot of hype around Ivory Coast in 2019, where they had some of the aforementioned names, but they could only reach the quarter-finals. Although, in their defence, they were knocked out by eventual winners, Algeria.

Sebastian Haller scored 10 goals in six games for Ajax in the UEFA Champions League. In the Dutch Eredivisie, he has 12 in 17 and has proven that he’s a man in rich form with Ivory Coast just needing to get the ball to him.


FIFA Ranking: 81
AFCON Qualifying Record: Played 6 | Won 3 | Drew 2 | Lost 1

Guinea had a strong qualifying campaign, losing only once in their six matches, drawing twice, and taking three wins. The Syli Nationale will be looking to take advantage of what many views as its golden generation with players such as Naby Keita (Liverpool, England), Ilaix Moriba (RB Leipzig, Germany), Amadou Diawara (Roma, Italy), and Mohamed Bayo (Clermont Foot, France).

Keita began the season in superb form with Liverpool, getting two goals and an assist earlier on in the 2021/22 campaign. While his name isn’t the first on Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI regularly, he is probably the most important member in the Guinea squad, and their coach, Kaba Diawara, will look to build around him and the La Masia graduate, Moriba, who traded Barca for Leipzig.

Bayo is one of the hottest upcoming strikers in Europe. This season he has nine goals for Clermont Foot (Ligue 1), equal with PSG’s Kylian Mbappe and only three goals behind current leading scorer, Jonathan David (Lille).

Guinea will face Malawi, Zimbabwe, and tournament favourites, Senegal, in Group B.

Their first fixture will be vs Malawi on Monday, January 10.


FIFA Ranking: 28
AFCON Qualifiers Record: Played 6 | Won 3 | Drew 2 | Lost 1

The Atlas Lions have been touted as underperformers in African football because of the potential and talent they’ve had over the years. One of their best players, Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech, was left out by coach Vahid Halilhodzic along with Ajax Amsterdam’s full-back Noussair Mazraoui.

Yet with those star players out, possibly because of their attitude towards the national team, Morocco still holds some of the best talents in the tournament with the likes of Achraf Hakimi (Paris Saint-Germain, France) Abde Ezzalzouli (Barcelona, Spain), Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla, Spain) and Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina, Italy).

Morocco is the only team that had a perfect record for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, winning six out of six.

They go into the AFCON with positive momentum and will look to show their intention against Ghana when they face them in their opening match on January 10.


FIFA Ranking: 30
AFCON Qualifying Record: Played 6 | Won 5 | Drew 1 | Lost 0

Tunisia scored 14 goals in six games on their way to qualifying for this tournament. Like Morocco, they come into this tournament in rich form having also won 4 of their 6 group games for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

There aren’t a lot of big names within the ranks of the Eagles of Carthage, however, they do have young superstars such as Manchester United teenager Hannibal Mejbri and Arsenal defender Omar Rekik.

Not much is known about most of their players, but they had enough to get them to the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup, where they lost 2-0 in extra time to current AFCON holders, Algeria.

Tunisia, winners of the Nations Cup in 2004, are in Group F alongside Mali, Mauritania, and debutants the Gambia. They face Mali in their first game on Wednesday, 12 January.

Written by Mcebo Mpungose