Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
On Jun 21st, the 24 best teams from Africa will descend on Egypt to contest the 32nd edition of the Cup of Nations – and this year the competition has an incredibly open feel to it.
Egypt, the tournament’s beaten finalists in 2017, are the bookmakers’ early favourites to retain their title, and with the aid of home advantage, the Pharaohs will certainly fancy their chances of winning their first Africa Cup of Nations title since 2010.
However, the spread and depth of quality among the other contenders is remarkably high, and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations already promises to be one of the most keenly contested tournaments in recent memory.
Read our 2019 Copa America outright betting tips and predictions with 25/1 outsider pick in our tournament preview here.
Egypt: 4/1 fav
Group Opponents: DR Congo, Uganda, Zimbabwe
Key Player: Mohamed Salah
Host nation and 2017 runners-up Egypt start the 2019 iteration of the competition as the bookmakers’ tip to lift the trophy in Cairo next month, though their recent form and performances suggest that they might be undeserving of their favourites tag.
Egypt have won only 4 of their last 15 international matches in a miserable sequence that stretches all the way back to November 2017, and the team’s dreadful showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia shone an unforgiving spotlight on the poor overall standard of player available to manager Javier Aguirre at present.
Egypt exited the 2018 World Cup at the Group Stage having failed to win a single point from their 3 matches, leaving Russia with their tails firmly between their legs after a trio of harrowing experiences.
With their confidence and self-belief already looking fragile, the weight of expectation that comes with hosting a tournament could prove a difficult pressure for Egypt to overcome this year.
Group Opponents: Cameroon, Benin, Guinea-Bissau
Key Player: Thomas Partey
The often fancied but perennially underperforming Ghanaians come into the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations as the second favourites to go on and win the competition next month, though in truth, the Black Stars have shown little pre-tournament promise.
Ghana haven’t won the continent’s biggest prize since 1982, and though they have come close on a number of occasions, glory has proved elusive for the country traditionally thought to be a hotbed of African footballing talent.
James Kwesi Appiah’s charges come into the Cup of Nations having lost just 1 of their most recent 9 matches, though their largely positive results papered over plenty of unconvincing displays.
Ghana finished 4th at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations to Gabon, despite scoring just 3 times in 6 matches, and worryingly, the lack of goalscoring power that was evident 2 years ago is still present today. That frustrating inability to carve open defences could hold Ghana back again in Egypt.
FreeSuperTips Pick: Senegal: 6/1
Group Opponents: Algeria, Kenya, Tanzania
Key Player: Sadio Mane
With 5 wins on the spin and just 2 defeats in 19 international matches overall since September 2017, Senegal come into the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations as one of the tournament’s most in-form outfits.
Senegal breezed through their competition qualification section, winning 5 of their 6 matches, scoring 12 times and taking more points overall (16 out of 18) than any of the other 11 group winners.
Les Lions de la Téranga were also the best performing African nation at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, taking 4 points from their 3 Group matches against Poland, Japan and Colombia.
Locked on the same points total, goal difference and goals scored as second placed Japan, Senegal were cruelly denied a place in the knockout rounds when the sides were eventually separated by their yellow card count.
However, disappointment aside, Senegal proved their ability to mix it with high-class international teams and armed with some of the tournament’s most exciting attacking players, including Sadio Mane, Ismaila Sarr and M’Baye Niang – we think Senegal have everything they need to win their first ever Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Group Opponents: Guinea, Madagascar, Burundi
Key Player: Ahmed Musa
3-time winners Nigeria were the top scoring team in tournament pre-qualification rounds, rattling the net 14 times in total across their games against South Africa, Libya and the Seychelles.
Nigeria topped Qualification Group E ahead of the South Africans, winning 4 games from 6 overall. The Super Eagles were beaten only once in their 10 matches in the run up to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt – and that solitary defeat was inflicted by a Messi-led Argentinean side in their final World Cup group game in June last year.
Nigeria make a welcome return to the Cup of Nations tournament this year having failed to qualify for the previous two competitions in 2017 and 2015.
Gernot Rohr’s men will be keen to re-establish themselves as on African powerhouse after a 6-year Africa Cup of Nations hiatus, and we expect the Super Eagles to be involved in this year’s tournament though to the latter stages.
Group Opponents: Ghana, Benin, Guinea-Bissau
Key Player: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting
Current Africa Cup of Nations title holders Cameroon were something of a surprise winner when they lifted the trophy in Gabon 2 years ago, and the Les Lions Indomptables have only been given an outside chance to repeat their unexpected success this time around by the bookmakers .
The Cameroonians, managed by Dutch legend Clarence Seedorf, came through their qualification section with relative ease, though they managed to score just 6 times in 6 games en-route to finishing second in Group B behind Morocco.
Cameroon leathered 11 goals past Spanish club Alcorcón in a hybrid pre-tournament friendly earlier this month, but apart from that remarkably anomalous result, goals have been thin on the ground for Seedorf’s men.
In fact, Cameroon have scored 1 goals or less in 10 of their last 13 international matches, and their lack of cutting edge in the final third could severely hamstring their chances of Africa Cup of Nations progression in Egypt.
FreeSuperTips Outsider Tip: Ivory Coast: 10/1
Group Opponents: Morocco, South Africa, Namibia
Key Player: Wilfried Zaha
2015 Africa Cup of Nations champions Ivory Coast finished 2nd in their 2019 tournament qualification Group behind table topping Guinea, though Les Éléphants scored 12 times in their 6 games compared to the Guineans’ 8.
The Ivory Coast will back themselves to continue to score freely in the competition proper this month, and with players like AC Milan’s Franck Kessié, Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, Lyon’s Maxwel Cornet, Lille’s Nicolas Pépé and Al-Arabi’s Wilfried Bony in their ranks, their confidence is understandable.
Ibrahim Kamara’s side are unbeaten in 10 ahead of the commencement of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, and though the Group they share with Morocco and South Africa looks tricky, the Ivory Coast have enough star quality to get them over the line.
If the Ivory Coast can blend their star-studded squad with a little luck, we think there is a real chance that they could lift just their 3rd Africa Cup of Nations trophy in Cairo on July 19th.
Remember – bet365 are paying 1/2 each way odds to 2 places in their outright 2019 Africa Cup of Nations market!
2019 Africa Cup of Nations Top Goalscorer Prediction
Sadio Mane, Senegal – 8/1
Flying winger Sadio Mane enjoyed a stunning 2019 and end to season with newly crowned European champions Liverpool, closing out his campaign with 17 goals in his last 26 games for the club.
The joint 2018/19 Premier League Golden Boot winner has scored a relatively modest 16 goals in 60 international appearances for his country, though his sense of occasion and ability to produce match-defining moments in the biggest games should ensure that he enhances that career haul considerably in Egypt this month.
Mane is certain to be heavily involved in all of Senegal’s attacking play, and the 27-year old should have ample opportunities to find the net in a weak looking Group that the Les Lions de la Téranga are expected to dominate.
Remember – bet365 are paying 1/4 each way odds to 4 places in their top scorer 2019 Africa Cup of Nations market!
We’ll be covering the entire 2019 Africa Cup of Nations campaign over on our match preview section. Make sure to check it out!
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