Betting Preview for the African Cup of Nations (AfCoN) Quarterfinals
At the beginning of the summer, I isolated six soccer tournaments/cups that I call “one-off” events. After a profitable summer of soccer, there is only one cup left. This is the 32nd edition of the African Cup of Nations. Originally, I did not have the AfCoN on my list due to the lack of television exposure. I generally do not try to handicap soccer that I can’t watch. Yet, when I checked the schedule on Live Soccer TV (https://www.livesoccertv.com/), which I highly recommend as a site, I noticed that BeinSports was televising the entire event. Having tried for years to find a way to at least live stream the tournament, I was very excited and added it to my list. At this point, considering that all of the other cups have concluded, it’s a nice way to wind down with the Knockout Stage of the AfCoN.
I am going to go through each game and preview the matchups, as well as give some insight as to what I might be looking for in betting each match. I made a model for all men’s summer senior (not youth) soccer. My model included all matches from the World Cup from last summer to now. Some confederations didn’t have enough samples, so I had to go back before that in some cases. I just used every federation, even though all of them weren’t included in the cups that I was currently handicapping. For example, Qatar and Japan are in the Asian federation but were invited to play in the Copa America tournament, so I simply included the entire Asian results in the model. This also helps in the betting of International Friendlies (glorified scrimmages) leading up to the cups. So, I will include information that I use, some of which you could find yourself, and some of which that I produce on my own from my model.
The first set of numbers will be my prediction of the side and total followed by the current market price. I also included accumulated goals for and goals against, as well as the accumulated shots on goal (SOG) for and against. The goals/SOG numbers are from four matches. I would say I take about 50% model, 25% goals/SOG for this specific cup and 25% just my opinion from watching all the matches. This event was originally scheduled to take place in Cameroon, but it was later determined that they did not have the ability to hold the tournament. Egypt was a last-minute substitution, but they have been eliminated so we have zero home field advantage to worry about. Every game is neutral. There are also intangible factors that change with each individual competition that are specific to the situation including travel, time off, history of the event, etc.
Senegal vs Benin (my model predicts: Senegal -0.79/1.68)
Market: Senegal -1, total: 2 under-110
Senegal Goals: 6-1 SOG: 24-7
Benin Goals: 3-3 SOG: 10-10
This match sets up pretty much as predicted. Senegal has won three and lost only one to Algeria, who I think is the best team in Africa right now. Senegal’s G/SOG record is outstanding at 6-1 & 24-7, while Benin has been really, really fortunate to get to this spot. The Squirrels G/SOG record is dead even. This doesn’t appear to be a team that can continue to get lucky and advance. They tied three matches in the group stage and then took a superior Moroccan team to extra time and then finally pushed through on penalty kicks. My model stops at the end of regulation because that’s where your bet ends. I put very little stock into how teams perform in extra time and ZERO stock in penalty kicks. Sometimes I don’t even watch the PKs at the end. For me, it’s a stupid way to decide a match. That being said, I don’t have a better alternative to deciding the outcome that doesn’t include “Play till someone scores”. Unless the line moves significantly, maybe Benin +1.25 even would be the only bet I might even consider here. Likely pass.
Nigeria vs South Africa (my model predicts: South Africa -0.15/1.07)
Market: Nigeria -0.5, total 1.75 over-110
Nigeria Goals: 5-4 SOG: 11-16
South Africa Goals: 2-2 SOG: 12-10
What is going on with the market here? Past history, as usual. South Africa last made the semis of the AfCoN in 2000. Since that time, Nigeria has made four semis, two finals and named winners in 2013. But we shouldn’t care too much about what happened with teams and cups that don’t include anyone on the current roster. Nigeria’s SOG record of 11-16 is a glaring problem ESPECIALLY if we have to bet on them to win the match outright in regulation. They started out well winning two matches 1-0 each against minnows Burundi and Guinea. As the competition increased, they started to look worse. Against Madagascar to finish group play, the Super Eagles lost SOG 1-3 (goals 0-2) and then made atrocious defensive errors against Cameroon, but came back from a 1-2 deficit to win 3-2. South Africa lost two matches 1-0 and won a match with the same scoreline in the group stage to barely advance to the Knockout Stage. South Africa then played a nearly perfect match against hosts Egypt and kept best player Mo Salah under wraps. Salah recently won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool. There are no Mo Salah’s on Nigeria’s roster. This is an easy lean to South Africa and under.
Madagascar vs Tunisia (my model predicts: Tunisia-0.39/2.05)
Market: Tunisia -0.5 -120, total 2 even
Madagascar Goals: 8-5 SOG: 14-9
Tunisia Goals: 3-3 SOG: 10-11
The 2019 edition of AfCoN is Madagascar’s debut in the tournament. They couldn’t possibly have scripted it better as they have fully grown into the tournament. After an opening draw against Guinea, the island nation was very pleased. Little did they know or expect, they would reel off three straight victories to enter the quarterfinals unbeaten in goals or SOG. Especially sweet was a 2-0 win over perennial power Nigeria to win the group. Every match is new territory for the AfCoN debutants. Tunisia has drawn four straight matches in this cup. So why does my model like them over Madagascar? Since 2018 Tunisia has lost six matches. The teams they have lost to have been outstanding: Spain, England, Belgium (all top ten in FIFA rankings) and in Africa: Morocco, Egypt and Algeria. No slouches there. So, Tunisia’s strength of schedule really boosts the number; which it should. But I tend to lean harder to current results and I don’t trust this Tunisia squad that hasn’t won a match in the cup. Also, Madagascar has had an extra day of rest. This one’s tough, but in these stages of the tournament you have to lean to dogs, who just have to draw in regulation to cash. I can’t bet Madagascar at this price, but I think Tunisia gets bet up to a number that I can play the dog small.
Algeria vs Ivory Coast (my model predicts: Algeria -0.25/1.73)
Market: Algeria -0.25 -110, total 2 under-105
Algeria Goals: 9-0 SOG: 17-4
Ivory Coast Goals: 6-1 SOG: 16-11
Visually, Algeria has been the best team in this edition of AfCoN, conceding zero goals and only four SOG in four matches, all wins. Since taking over managerial duties in August 2018, former player Djamel Belmadi has produced nine wins, two draws and only one loss. The Desert Foxes have played in an organized manner giving away very little defensively while playing unselfish offensively as five players have scored goals. Algeria also has the benefit of extra day of rest over Ivory Coast. The Elephants have had a really nice year, winning seven and only losing two. They have a way better goals records (6-1) than their SOG record (16-11) indicates they should. They have also been well organized defensively and have a rising star, Wilfried Zaha. Zaha is capable of a moment of brilliance at any time. This is the scenario that I hate. I really like both of these teams, it’s a shame they play each other.
AfCoN totals tend to play lower than most Knockout Stage tournaments with an average of 2.12 and a median of 2 over the last five editions. Most others have a median of 2 but an average around 2.4. In the Knockout Stages, if a match goes to the end of regulation, the bet ends there which is the logical way to grade it. So, it is in your best interest to lean heavily toward the dog and under as teams get really conservative toward the end of the match – especially if it is tied. The extra time of 30 minutes do not count in your bet. Nor do the penalty kicks that decide the match. I will end up small on every under if I don’t like it outright already.
This clearly looks like a collision course for Algeria and Senegal to meet in the finals. But soccer doesn’t play out that way. No other sport has as many teams that dominate a match and still come out losers in the end. Three of the eight matches in the Round of 16 were won by the team with less SOG. A really good example is Tunisia. Holding a 1-0 lead over Ghana, they put a sub in at the 90+1 minute. He promptly scored an own goal on his first play and sent the match into extra time, where there was no winner and had to go to Penalties. Tunisia went on to win the match but Penalties are mostly luck. If Ghana won that match it would have meant half of the teams that won, shouldn’t have. Be careful betting favorites in Knockout rounds of a soccer tournament.