Amid all of the uncertainty, “disrespect” and chaos that trailed the start of the ‘2021’ Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), the tournament has kicked off with lots of excitement.
For the second edition running, 24 teams have begun to battle for the most prestigious title in the continent. Cameroon are back as the tournament’s hosts after being unable to host in 2019.
The defending champions, Algeria failed to win their first match of the campaign. The Desert Warriors were forced to a goalless draw against Sierra Leone.
Indeed, the goals have come at a premium so far. Only one match has witnessed more than a goal. Yet, there is much to look forward to as things progress.
The group stages of the Afcon, if well analysed can deliver great odds for punters. With eight matches played so far, here are four brilliant bet options for this stage.
Under 3.5 Goals
The most evident theme at the Afcon has been a lack of goals. Seven of eight matches have finished with either 0-0 or 1-0. The average number of goals have decreased from 3.09 in 2008 to 1.96 in 2019.
A lack of preparation time pre-tournament could form one of the reasons for this. Most of the participating countries did not have the luxury of friendlies to fine-tune tactics and ensure team cohesion.
It might be safe to assume that more African teams are on the rise, especially with the ease of migration and globalisation.
The extension of the number of participating teams to 24 also means that the more established teams have a higher probability of qualifying for the knockout. Hence, there is a reluctance to compete fiercely in the group stages.
This may yet change in the coming days but the chances are low. It is therefore a safe option for punters to bet on less than three goals a game in the group stages.
Under 4.5 Yellow Cards
Just like the goals, it has also been a particularly clean tournament in terms of discipline.
Known for an averagely robust kind of football with on-the-edge tackles, this year’s Afcon has seen players tackle neatly.
Early days, perhaps, but there has been an average of 2.25 yellow cards. In fact, Egypt vs Nigeria, one of the biggest encounters, did not record any caution.
The presence of VAR, alongside the absence of key players owing to Coronavirus have ensured that players are more wary in jumping into tackles. Coaches are also a bit more risk averse due to lack of sufficient preparation time. More teams have defended with a low block.
Of course, the referees have observably shown more leniency in dishing out cautions.
This option looks quite safe for the foreseeable future. Smart punters can take good advantage of it.
Over 4.5 Corners
When necessary, teams have showed attacking intents. Indeed, some of the best forwards are represented at this year’s Afcon.
The likes of Riyad Mahrez and Said Benrahma for Algeria, Egypt’s Mohamed Salah, Senegal’s Sadio Mane and Nigeria’s Samuel Chukuwueze have all featured so far.
The implication, here, is that most of these tricky forwards love to take on defenders, forcing them into conceding corners.
Also, as the game wears on, without a goal, the tops teams become desperate and commit more bodies in attack. The smaller teams, on the other hand, retreat and defend deeper ensuring more corners.
In eight matches played, the 2021 Afcon has recorded at least five corners per match. The option is a must-have for punters interested in this competition.
Under 2.5 First Half Goals
This option has proven to be one of the safest at the 2021 Afcon. Only in the opening match has more than one goal being scUnder 2.5 First Half Goalsored in the first half.
If anything, teams are taking a bit longer to get off the blocks. They start off feeling each other- essentially to reduce the risks.
The teams only become desperate after the first half hour has been played. The luxury of five substitutions also helps the defending to stay fresh.
And with more teams standing the chance to qualify for the knockouts with four best losers tickets up for grabs, it looks the more logical thing to do. Teams can defend their way to the round of 16.