Africa Cup of Nations Group C Betting Preview
Published on June 09, 2019
Group C of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations will see Senegal, Algeria, Kenya, and Tanzania battling to progress to the knockout stages.
There is a clear gap in experience and quality here, but the favorites would be unwise to take anything for granted.
I’ll start off this Group C betting preview by looking at the odds that the best Africa Cup of Nations betting sites have provided, and I’ll analyze each team to see where the best betting value is.
I will then share my predictions for the final outcome of the group and give away a free betting pick for the group’s winner.
Let’s kick things off with the Group C winner odds that the bookmakers have rolled out. The ones below are courtesy of Betway.
It’s quite obvious that Senegal is the big favorite in Group C. The team possesses a good balance and was dominant in their qualifying group. Algeria can surely pose a threat here but has also been a bit inconsistent with their showing, and I can’t say they have a very successful tradition in the tournament.
Can Tanzania and Kenya cause an upset here? A surprise is always possible at the Africa Cup of Nations, but before I go ahead with my predictions, I’ll take a detailed look at each team and the aspects you need to consider when betting on the outcome of Group C.
Senegal has the potential to be one of the most exciting teams in the tournament. They have everything in place to produce good performances and make it to the latter stages. Without a doubt, the focal point of their team will be Sadio Mane.
The Liverpool winger is the nation’s captain, and hopes of a memorable tournament will rely heavily on him. The good news for them is that Mane’s year has been absolutely phenomenal. He scored 22 goals in the Premier League and took away a share of the Golden Boot prize.
Although certain goals he scored have been the subject of much debate and would probably not have stood if there was VAR in place, it is still a huge achievement for a player who is not a natural out-and-out striker. While all eyes will surely be on Mane to perform, the team actually has an abundance of other attacking options.
So much so that coach Aliou Cisse will have some big decisions to make on that front prior to the start of the tournament. In the course of the qualifications, he gradually moved away from experience and handed the offensive responsibilities to some of his younger players.
That looks to have done the trick as Senegal won 16 points out of a possible 18, scoring 12 goals in the process. The standout performer was 24-year-old M’Baye Niang. The forward started out with AC Milan but was shipped out to different clubs on loan and never really had a chance to establish himself.
He was bought by Italy’s Torino and went out on loan again, this time to the French side Rennes. There, Niang seems to have found a higher gear in Ligue 1 as he scored 11 goals this term which didn’t go unnoticed by coach Cisse. And it proved to be a good move as Niang topped Senegal’s goalscoring charts during the qualification games.
Even though many believe he is still very much a raw product, he is definitely on the rise and is expected to be given the minutes to shine. The same is true for Keita Balde. He is another young and skillful player who is beginning to add goals to his game.
Veteran Moussa Sow is also an option for Cisse, but despite scoring two goals against Equatorial Guinea at the start of Senegal’s qualifying campaign, he has been left out of the squad more and more. It looks like the 33-year-old will have to face the fact that there are some new kids on the block, and the coach is not afraid to give them a go.
What I think separates the Lions from other quality teams is that their squad boasts quality and experience in all areas. Whereas other teams may rival their attacking potential, almost no other squad possesses the balance that Senegal has.
In defense, their main weapon is Kalidou Koulibaly. The Napoli man is one of the hottest properties in soccer right now, having impressed the top European clubs with his performances in Italy. His natural strength and pace, coupled with a good understanding of the game, is very rare and is bound to stifle any opposition.
Cheikhou Kouyate and Salif Sane are the more experienced options. Kouyate is originally a defensive midfielder but has also been used in the back for his heading ability and tackling skills. Sane has been plying his trade in Germany for many years and has established himself as a tactically astute defender with a no-nonsense attitude.
But most importantly, Senegal has great cover for their defense in the form of Idrissa Gueye. The midfield enforcer has been playing in the Premier League for four seasons now and has consistently been among the top tacklers. He is prone to rushing into challenges sometimes but has the experience and composure to be the team’s engine and a great link between defense and attack.
Algeria had some issues in the qualifying games but ultimately managed to top their group after an all-important 2-0 win against closest competitors Benin. They finished with nine goals in six games, and unsurprisingly, their best player Riyad Mahrez was the star performer.
Since moving from Leicester to Manchester City, Mahrez has been used more as a squad player under Guardiola, and he hasn’t racked up the same amount of playing time as he had with his former club. That can usually signal a lack of sharpness, but actually, the winger has been very efficient when coming off the bench, especially in the latter stages of the season.
He scored some important goals for City and was praised by his manager for his overall contribution when called upon. I believe Mahrez has the right attitude, and this situation has rattled his confidence. On the contrary, he will be fresh and motivated to make the most out of having a central role in his national team.
Another player providing the spark up front is the experienced Sofiane Feghouli. The midfielder has been on the team since 2012 and has played in both Primera and the English Premier League. He is currently on Galatasaray’s roster and is coming off of his most prolific season in terms of goals.
Feghouli has been criticized in the past for the lack of goals on an international level, but coach Djamel Belmadi will be hoping he can replicate his club performances in the Africa Cup of Nations. Although it will be important for Mahrez and Feghouli to score a few goals, their main task will be providing the ammunition for Algeria’s in-form striker Baghdad Bounedjah.
The 27-year-old has made the number 9 position his own after Islam Slimani has seen limited playing time in his club. Bounedjah has never played for a major soccer team, but he boasts an almost unbelievable scoring record. He’s been a part of Qatari club Al Sadd SC for four seasons now and has racked up 112 goals in 88 games!
And the good news for Algeria fans is that he is proving to be a prolific forward for the national team as well. He has 8 goals in 21 games and was the leading scorer in the nation’s qualification cycle for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Everything points to the fact that he will be spearheading the team’s attack. And with a proven goalscorer like Islam Slimani on the bench, Algeria looks to be well-prepared on that front. The rest of the team’s core is made up of younger players.
This year has seen the rise of Youcef Atal and Ramy Bensebaini in defense. Both of them play in the French Ligue 1 and are viewed as exciting prospects for the future, and coach Belmadi’s decision to give them bigger roles in the team is viewed as a positive one in the country. Not only are they showing glimpses of their potential at the back, but both of them also scored vital goals in the qualifying tournament.
Another young duo that has a chance to impress is midfielders Adam Ounas and Ismael Bennacer. They have been making a lot of substitute appearances as of late, and I expect they will be given minutes in the friendlies prior to the tournament. Both are very young and still learning, but their rapid development can convince Belmadi to make use of them in the main tournament. Even if we don’t see much of them, both are definitely worth keeping an eye out for in the future.
Kenya was definitely one of the overachievers during the qualifying tournament. They not only qualified with ease but were able to beat heavy favorites Ghana and finish with the best defensive record in the cycle.
It’s absolutely evident that solid defending is the team’s main strength, and it is all down to coach Sebastien Migne. After a 15-year absence from the Africa Cup of Nations, mainly because of an underperforming defense, the Frenchman has completely transformed the way the team lines up.
It is not so much a matter of individual quality but a system designed to work regardless of which pieces Migne uses. The fact that the nation’s most experienced defender David Owino missed the majority of qualifying games is further proof of that. Migne will be hoping to get his most trusted general back for the start of the main competition, but there are also quite a few other defenders to look out for.
Mainly, Philemon Otieno and Joash Onyango who play for local team Gor Mahia and were pivotal in the club’s Confederation Cup run this year. The rest of the defense is formed by Aboud Omar and Eric Ouma, whose speed and dribbling skills allow them to offer an offensive contribution as well.
Although every defender in the team deserves high praise, we have to note that a lot of the team’s solidity is ensured by the experience and drive of the midfielders, none more so than the captain and most high-profile player in the squad — Victor Wanyama. The midfield powerhouse provides the physique and tactical awareness to both pull the strings in the middle of the park and negate opponents when necessary.
Wanyama was instrumental in the qualifying rounds and has formed a formidable partnership with Kenya’s other tough-tackling enforcer Dennis Odhiambo. Odhiambo is a bit of an unsung hero as it’s hard to stand out playing next to the club captain and best player, but he has been a constant menace for each and every opposition he’s faced.
Up front, Migne will rely on Michael Olunga and Allan Wanga to chip in with the goals. Olunga has experience playing in the Primera Division, has two good feet, and can be a real threat in the air. It is well-known that if Kenya has one problem, it’s scoring goals, but Olunga is one of those players that can score from nothing, and a lot will depend on whether he and his veteran partner Allan Wanga will come up with the goods.
The Taifa Stars surprised everyone by qualifying for the tournament, as this will be their first appearance in 39 years. Credited with one of the biggest soccer achievements in the country’s history is, of course, the new coach, Emmanuel Amuneke.
The Nigerian was appointed back in August 2018, and although his tenure did not start well, he was able to successfully steer the team to the runner-up spot of their qualifying group. Let’s have a look at the players that helped him do that.
The bulk of the squad is made up of players who have only played for teams in Tanzania. In my view, this makes their achievements even more impressive. While most other teams have at least one player from the top soccer leagues, Tanzania has none, and only a handful plays outside the country.
The defense is comprised of veterans Kelvin Yondani, Aggrey Morris, and Shomari Kapombe, who are assisted by the promising young duo Abdi Banda and Hassan Kelly. The midfield also has a mixture of young and old. Mao Mkami and Shiza Kichuya have been given a lot of playing time by Amuneke and have impressed. Kichuya is still only 22 years old and already has four goals for the national team.
Arguably the most important piece in midfield is Erasto Nyoni. The experienced enforcer has more than 80 caps for his country and is Amuneke’s designated penalty taker. His composure and leadership will be crucial if the team is to make a positive appearance at the tournament.
Unsurprisingly for a team led by a legendary forward, Tanzania’s biggest strength is in attack. The team captain Mbwana Samatta plays for Genk in Belgium and is Amuneke’s deadliest option. Samatta contributed two goals in the qualifying games, and his overall record for the national team reads 17 goals in 48 games.
His most likely partner is 25-year-old Simon Msuva, who plays for Difaâ Hassani d’el-Jadida in Morocco and also managed to hit two goals in the qualifiers. Amuneke can rely on John Bocco for backup, who is one of the many Simba SC players in the squad. Bocco is also among the more experienced guys, having played for his country more than 50 times, scoring 14 goals in the process.
Each team in the group has an obvious weak spot, except for Senegal, and I am very surprised to see them at -125. They dominated their qualifying group, have top players in every key position on the pitch, and a manager with experience from some of the best leagues in the world.
It’s true that they have had talented generations in the past that haven’t won the tournament, but I feel everything is in place for them to do well this year. I won’t go so far as to say they will win the whole thing, but topping Group C is highly probable.
Kenya can struggle for goals, whereas Tanzania lacks in defensive quality, and this was showcased by the fact that they let in easy goals against minnows such as Cape Verde and Lesotho.
Senegal starts their campaign against Tanzania, who should be easy prey for their much more experienced group. They have a good chance of winning the tie comfortably, which will further relax the players, and in the other game, Algeria can very much hit a brick wall when they play Kenya.
As we already mentioned, the Kenyans conceded only one goal in the qualifiers, whereas Algeria was very lackluster in some of the games and didn’t even manage to beat lowly Gambia in two attempts. If Migne and his men are indeed able to stifle the Greens, Senegal will only need to avoid defeat in their game against Algeria to give themselves a great chance of topping the group.
I feel the odds represent great value, and if I were you, I would be quick to place my bets on Senegal for Group C winners as the numbers will not get better than that.
That brings us to the end of my early AFCON Group C betting preview. Let me know if you agree with my predictions and pick in the comments below. I would love to see your thoughts on my analysis and whether you think Senegal will dominate the group or not.
In any case, be sure to visit the blog regularly, as there will be tons of other AFCON material in the build-up to the tournament and when the games kick off. You should check out our main Africa Cup of Nations betting guide, too.