We are now less than six months away from the Africa Cup Of Nations, which means it’s going to begin dominating football conversations in no time. We thought now might be a good time to get a jump on those conversations here.
One thing it’s important to note before we get to any discussion of favorites is that qualification is still underway. As of the time of this writing, teams have played five matches each, meaning each team has one more match to play in the qualifying groups. Some relative long shots, including Gambia, Comoros, and the Cape Verde Islands, among others, are technically still in the running to advance to the Cup. At the same time however, many of the strongest African football nations have already secured placement.
The clearest picture of the favorites will appear in the official betting events following the last qualification matches in March. A range of dedicated sites for bookmaking in sports all over the world is available to browse for free, and while not every site will touch on the Africa Cup Of Nations (most are based in the UK), many undoubtedly will. This will tell us, in less than two months’ time, which teams the highly advanced prediction markets are taking most seriously.
Since the Cup’s field isn’t fully solidified yet, and odds are not yet visible at reliable sites, we’re taking a more general look at some of the teams to watch for contention.
Senegal – Senegal is unquestionably one of the most talented African sides of late, and would have had a nice showing at the World Cup last summer had it not been eliminated in a tight group by virtue of the seldom used “fair play” tiebreaker. Coaching and consistent team play have at times been issues for this team, but between the likes of Idrissa Gueye, M’Baye Niang, and Sadio Mane, there’s a lot of skill in the midfield and on the attack.
Tunisia – Tunisia took a lot of pride from a World Cup showing. Qualifying in the first place was quite an accomplishment fro the North African nation, and the team managed a win over Panama despite not being at full strength. This group probably won’t win the Africa Cup Of Nations, but it’s become a strong side that can’t be overlooked, and it’s been fairly impressive in group play.
Egypt – Egypt will definitely be among the favorites when the odds are released. As long as Mohamed Salah is around to lead the attack (despite his frustrations at times with international play), this will be a formidable team. Egypt has dominated Group J (alongside Tunisia), where despite an early loss to Tunisia (back in 2017), it owns a plus-11 goal differential.
Nigeria – Nigeria impressed at the World Cup, and was probably the only African side better than Senegal at the event. In fact, Nigeria has even been mentioned as one of the countries to watch ahead of the 2022 World Cup, given the plethora of young and talented players who have a chance to turn into a strong unit by then. There’s a reasonable chance Nigeria will have the best odds to win the Africa Cup Of Nations once the field is set.
South Africa – South Africa hasn’t made it past the group qualification phase just yet, but it’s been a difficult team for opponents to play throughout the process. Despite having only amassed nine points (behind Nigeria’s 10 in Group E), South Africa is undefeated with a plus-eight goal differential. It’s not a side many casual football fans would expect to see in the mix, but it’s one that’s showing visible improvement and potential to compete with any other African team on a given day.