The AFCON is really beginning to hot up now with the tournament at the quarter final stage, and only the best teams remain to face off against one another. At 5pm BST on Thursday it’ll be Ivory Coast and Algeria who meet at the Suez Stadium in their bids to reach the semi finals. The Ivory Coast have been in great from throughout, bagging ten goals and suffering defeat only once, while Algeria are yet to concede and have been victorious in all four games played up to now. Everything is set up perfectly for a fascinating match.
Manager Ibrahim Kamara should be pleased with his side’s progress during the course of this summer, coming second in the group stage behind a solid Moroccan squad and seeing off Mali in the Last 16. They opened their AFCON account with victory over South Africa where they won thanks to a solitary goal from Jonathan Kodjia. Upon the clash with Morocco, Ivory Coast were filled with confidence and belief that Group D was theirs for the taking. Unfortunately, Morocco came away with maximum points as Youssef En-Nesyri notched twenty-three minutes in to see Ivory Coast leave empty handed. The final group outing was crucial in terms of who would take second spot with Ivory Coast needing a win, and that is exactly what they did – by four goals to one against Namibia. They were to play Mali in the Round of 16, again at the Suez Stadium, and thankfully they managed to find a winner during normal time when Wilfried Zaha struck home fourteen minutes from the end. It was perhaps an undeserved win considering the statistics, however Ivory Coast fans won’t care, nor should they.
Algeria have been one of the most impressive teams in the entire tournament, beating everyone in their way and maintaining a clean defensive record. Up first was a match against Kenya, who they defeated comfortably by two goals to nil, but a much tougher opponent was yet to come. Senegal fought hard to get something from the encounter, but Mohamed Youcef Belaili’s second half strike was enough to see his nation gain six points from two games. That performance provided Algeria with incredible momentum for the subsequent fixtures, and from there they did not let their form slip or concentration slide. The final group phase meeting was at the Al Salam Stadium where they took on Tanzania and ran out 0-3 victors, each goal arriving before the interval. Islam Slimani got one, while teammate Adam Ounas netted a brace. That scoreline was matched last time out against Guinea during the Last 16, this time with Riyad Mahrez getting his second of the tournament along with Belaili and Ounas.
Tottenham right-back Serge Aurier may be forced to the sidelines due to an ankle injury, so his position will probably need to be filled until his return to action. Other than that, there are no injury worries for Ivory Coast. We expect them to line up just as they did against Mali and Namibia in a 4-2-3-1, as both games saw them offer a lot going forward whilst keeping a solid defensive unit. Sylvain Gbohouo should be the number one behind Wilfried Kanon and Ismael Traore. In front of them, Geoffrey Serey Die is likely to partner Jean-Phillipe Gbamin in the middle of the park. As we move further up the pitch we’ll see Wilfried Zaha, Frank Kessie and Nicolas Pepe playing as an attacking trio, supporting striker Jonathan Kodjia.
Algeria’s entire squad will be available for selection so Djamel Belmadi will be quietly confident in his team’s chances of progressing with a slight advantage in that regard. There is no reason to change from the winning formula they utilized versus Guinea, where they started in a 4-4-2 which allowed them to break the opposition down quick with their quick attackers. In goal, Rais M’Bolhi will keep his place, protected by a defensive of Youcef Atal, Ramy Bensebaini, Alissa Mandi and Djameleddine Benlamri. The four in midfield are likely to be Manchester City’s Mahrez, Sofiane Feghouli, Ismael Bennacer and Adlene Guedioura. Up front, Baghdad Bounedjah will partner Mohamed Youcef Belaili as a duo.
Algeria’s defensive stability has served them well thus far as they look to keep a fifth clean sheet on the bounce. Ivory Coast have also kept the opposition out to good effect, however when they have a big lead they tend to become complacent. Due to their incredible work-rate and undeniable quality, we’re going for Algeria to advance through to the semi finals, and Skybet have them at 5/4 to win the affair. Adam Ounas has notched three goals in his last two appearances for his country and is already up there with the top scorers in the tournament, so it’s absolutely expected that he’ll get more opportunities here. Skybet have the attacker to score in this one anytime at 13/5. Both teams have terrific forward thinking individuals and are well gelled, with neither likely to sit back and hold on to what they’ve got. With this in mind, Skybet’s price of 5/1 for Algeria to win and BTTS at 5/1 looks fantastic for our final tip.