2019 African Cup Of Nations – Group E Preview
June 21, 2019
Group E – Winner Odds
Tunisia – 20/1 with Unibet
Mali – 20/1 with Betfair
Angola – 100/1 with Unibet
Mauritania – 200/1 with Betfred
This year’s African Cup of Nations seeing a fascinating managerial matchups lined featuring coaches trying to outsmart sides they have previously enjoyed decent success with. There’s Hervé Renard, of course, facing Côte d’Ivoire with Morocco. Then if Benin somehow make it to the Round of 16 as a third-placed team, Michel Dussuyer too could be up testing himself against Côte d’Ivoire too. And then there’s Alain Giresse, going up against Mali whom he led to the bronze medal back in 2012. Now he’s admittedly in a different position with Tunisia, who must be aiming at the highest possible finish, whereas with Mali back then, a third place was arguably an overachievement.
Tunisia could surprise a lot of people in Egypt. They’ll actually have the youngest dressing room at the tournament, standing at an average of 24 years old, and nine members of the squad are domestic league recruits. Five of them have, however, appeared in the two-legged 2019 CAF Champions League final for Espérance Tunis, and the remaining four all played in the semi-finals of the second biggest club competition in Africa, CAF Confederation Cup, for two different clubs – CS Sfaxien and Étoile du Sahel.
The Tunisian club scene is booming, and that could mean a lot here. They had already low-key dominated the qualifiers, winning five out of six games, and they are a free-scoring bunch, tagging their opponents 17 times in 10 games since the World Cup. Their talisman Youssef Msakni is back from an injury, Wahbi Khazri is his usual inventive self, and Naïm Sliti continues to be the enigmatic dribbler who’s now finally been unleashed as a scorer for the national team, too (four goals in the qualifiers). Easy on the eye they definitely will be; scrappy football full of tactical fouling and diving can no longer be expected from Tunisia.
Next in line, still waiting for their big break, are Mali. They have kind of become a staple in the bronze-medal games no one bothers to watch nowadays, but they’d frankly been part of the reason why nobody bothered to watch in the past. Especially under Giresse, they played a very cynical, direct brand of football not many, including yours truly, grew too fond of.
But that could be changing now — seeing how their youth teams combined well on the ground, and seeing Sékou Koita, the protagonist of this year’s U-20 World Cup team, in the senior squad, we may finally be in for a treat from Malians. Armoured with one of the most sought-after central midfielders in Europe, Diadie Samassékou, 21-year-old RB Leipzig winter signing Amadou Haidara and 19-year-old Cheick Doucouré, tipped to be the next great-value low-profile signing from Ligue 2, Mali have assembled as exciting, talented and robust central midfield.
Angola return to the continental showpiece after a surprisingly long six-year hiatus, and you’d be best served not to completely overlook them. They play with a lot of urgency, on the counter and off the ball, have historically had some of the best crossers of the ball in Africa (this side doesn’t seem to be an exception), and could prove to be a real pain in the ass for just about any team at this tournament. I, for one, would not be surprised if they crack the top 2 in this group, enjoying the benefit of knowing Mauritania from the qualifiers (even destroying them 4:1 at home, before falling flat in Nouakchott).
Speaking of Mauritania, they are taking a squad full of U-23s (you’ll find ten of them in the squad) to Egypt and will look to park the bus deep in their own half. They are however similar to Angola in that they counter-attack with great efficiency and their delivery from the flanks is off the charts, topping 45% accuracy in the qualifiers. Did I mention Mauritania could be a real pain in the ass? Make that two pains in this group.
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