On Sunday two of AFCON 2019’s favourites for silverware will face off in the semi final, played at the Cairo International Stadium with kick off set for 8pm BST. The pair last met during World Cup qualification in a game which saw Algeria run out 3-0 victors. Algeria are the only unbeaten nation remaining in the tournament having won four and drawn on one occasion, whereas Nigeria were on the wrong end of the scoreboard versus Madagascar, who will take part in the other semi final on Sunday. Algeria will expect to come out on top after eliminating giant killers South Africa on Wednesday, but Nigeria have a wealth of young talent and should be able to put up a real fight.
Algeria began their AFCON journey with three magnificent, comfortable wins on the bounce against Kenya, Senegal and Tanzania in the group stage. The encounter with Senegal was rather controversial as it’s argued by many that their opponents were deserving of a penalty, not that the Algerians will pay any attention to that at this point, but the game was far closer than the other two outings. Nine points out of nine meant that Belmadi’s men topped Group C by three clear points ahead of Senegal, and subsequently advances to the Round of 16 where Guinea were hoping to cause an upset. That wasn’t to be though and Algeria ran riot, hitting three past Ibrahim Kone through Mohamed Youcef Belaili, Riyad Mahrez and Adam Ounas, two of which arrived in the second half. It was the meeting with Ivory Coast that posed the biggest threat to Algeria’s safety in the AFCON, although Sofiane Feghouli settled nerves twenty minutes in with the opener. Baghdad Bouedjah missed a crucial penalty just after the interval which would’ve doubled his team’s advantage, and a little past the hour mark Jonathan Kodjia bagged to level things up. Neither team could find another strike, and penalties were to decide who would remain on course for a chance at glory. Algeria won the shootout 3-4 as Ounas, Delort, Slimani and Benebaini each hit home after Belaili failed to score.
Nigeria were expected to come out of the group stage as table toppers, but it wasn’t to be as Madagascar were the tournament’s surprise package and ended up finishing one point above the Nigerians. Gernot Rohr saw his side beat Burundi and Guinea by a solitary goal on both occasions, but it was in the affair with Madagascar where he’ll have been most disappointed as victory there would have ensured Nigeria’s place in top spot. Cameroon were the opponents in the Round of 16 and the match was fascinating as the pair looked determined to score as many goals as possible with little intent on holding back. Former Watford striker Odion Ighalo got the first under twenty minutes into the game, however Stephane Bahoken and Clinton N’Jie put Cameroon in front as half-time got ever closer. Ighalo again got on the scoresheet to level the scores though, and Arsenal starlet Alex Iwobi grabbed the winner with sixty-six minutes played. Up next was South Africa who were on top of the world after knocking Egypt out, and Bongani Zungu’s leveler late in the day for Stuart Baxter’s team looked sure to take the game to extra time. With one minute of regulation time remaining, William Troost-Ekong became a hero in Nigeria as he scored the goal which saw his country advance to the semi final.
Algeria will have everyone available for this clash which will be a major boost for the camp as the entire squad will be fighting for a place in the starting eleven. We expect Algeria to line up in the 4-4-2 that was used versus Guinea as it opened up the channels and created plenty of chances for the attackers. Rais M’Bolhi will start as goalkeeper behind a four man defense of Youcef Attal, Ramy Bensebaini, Aissa Mandi and Djameleddine Benlamri. In midfield, Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez will sit on the right side of the field, while Adlene Guedioura should occupy the left. In the centre will be Sofiane Feghouli and Ismael Bennacer. Baghdad Bounedjah and Mohamed Youcef Belaili are likely to begin as a striking duo.
Former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel has missed quite a few games due to a knee injury and will probably sit this one out too, but on a positive note there are no other concerns in the squad. There’s no reason to change a winning formula and manager Rohr knows that, so the 4-2-3-1 that worked so well in the Last 16 and quarter finals will most likely be on show again on Sunday. Daniel Akpeyi should be the number one, protected by Troost-Ekong and Kenneth Omeruo as centre backs while Jamilu Collins and Chidozie Awaziem start on either flank. Oghenekaro Etebo will sit alongside Wilfred Ndidi in defensive midfield, behind an attacking force which consists of Samuel Chukwueze, Iwobi and Ahmed Musa. Odion Ighalo will start as the number nine by himself.
These are two teams who love to attack and connect with their teammates, so expect more than just a couple of goals if the forwards look sharp early on. Nigeria have netted five in their previous two outings, while Algeria have scored seven times in their past three games, so Skybet’s price of over 2.5 goals at 6/4 looks a sure bet from our perspective. Algeria have that know-how and always find a way to victory though, whereas Nigeria tasted defeat in unlikely circumstances when Madagascar beat them to top spot during the group stage. For this reason we expect Algeria to continue this fantastic run and progress to the final, with Algeria to win and BTTS at 9/2 with Skybet. Algeria have scored twice or more in three of their five matches, and considering Nigeria have shipped four goals in their last three games we see no option but to present Algeria to score 2+ at 7/4 with Skybet.