2019 African Cup of Nations – Group C Preview

June 21, 2019

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Group C – Winner Odds

Senegal – 6/1 with SportNation

Algeria – 14/1 with Unibet

Kenya – 175/1 with Betfair

Tanzania – 250/1 with Ladbrokes

The pool of favourites and outsiders is arguably most visibly split in Group C where Senegal and Algeria face off with two forever underachieving Eastern African countries, Kenya (first AFCON since 2004) and Tanzania (1980), who had mostly just lucked their way into this tournament; with Kenya even benefiting from a suspension to Sierra Leone halfway through the qualifying cycle.

The regional rivals are essentially the polar opposites of each other: Kenya only know how to sit deep passively and try to frustrate the opponents, which they actually did in the qualifiers at home against Ghana (1:0) and then almost pulled the same trick against them once more later in the qualifiers (0:1). Meanwhile, Tanzania’s best hopes for progression linger on their ability to outscore the opposition, presumably by 6 goals to 5 or something. No seriously, Kenya’s best playmaker is somehow still Victor Wanyama, the holding midfielder of Tottenham, while Tanzania’s fullbacks are basically wingers and their centre backs were both born in 1984, so could find themselves seriously out of their depth in a completely new environment. That said, Tanzania also boast Mbwana Samatta up front, star of the Belgian champions Genk and the league’s top scorer with 23 markers. They could hit you if you don’t pay attention, for sure.

Senegal should comfortably have what it takes to clinch the top spot. They have the strongest centre back partnership on the continent in Kalidou Koulibaly and Salif Sané, their fullbacks are exciting and provide a lot of overlapping runs for Sadio Mane up front. The thing with Senegal is — will they finally prove to be more than just a sum of their parts? There’s a reason Senegal have only ever proceeded to one AFCON final in the history (2002), and it’s typically hidden in the little details. Last year it was the disciplinary record tie-breaker at the World Cup; at the last AFCON, it was a penalty shoot-out with Sadio Mané missing the crucial kick after spening the whole tournament leading by example.

With Sadio Mané, there’s one more issue to consider: he already looked gassed last summer, stumbling to a mere one shot on target, while this year he’s already cleared the 50-game hurdle for the first time in his career. Can the most prolific player in the Premier League (22 non-penalty goals) find the energy to carry another Senegalese team with not a single creative player in central midfield? He may, but he might also need Keita Baldé and the rising star of Ismaïla Sarr of Rennes to step up to the plate more than ever, especially as he’s going to miss the opener through a suspension.

Spare for the obligatory stumble out of the block with Kenya (they have only won one opener out of 10 since winning the whole thing in 1990), Algeria shouldn’t have much trouble in accompanying Senegal to the Round of 16, despite making pre-tournament headlines for all the weird reasons. After all, they can still lean on one of best strikers in Africa, if not the best, in Baghdad Bounedjah. The 27-year-old phenom scored in 11 consecutive league matches for Al-Sadd (Qatar) between November 2018 and this April, collecting four hat tricks in the process, and he’s heading into the tournament in a fine form for the national team, too, bagging seven goals in his last eight starts for Algeria. The Fennecs should be fine.

While not exactly a tactical mastermind, coach Djamel Belmadi has had great success with some of the most star-studded teams in the Qatari Stars League history, so he knows a thing or two about managing talent and big egos. That he left Faouzi Ghoulam, Ishak Belfodil or Nabil Bentaleb at home is a huge statement, and it could also be exactly what Algeria have needed, having won a mere four AFCON games in the last 15 years.

Here are the bookmakers offering the best 2019 African Cup of Nations betting odds

Author: Tomáš Daníček

Tomas is a journalist who's ruthlessly been covering AFCON for Czech readers since 2012, but mostly a blogger with passion for African and Asian football which he often channels for everyone to see over at @Sandal4Goalpost and @shootlikeodil

Twitter @TomDanicek

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