The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations is the biggest event on this year’s international football calendar, which just goes to show how far the tournament has come in recent times.
Not long ago it was a competition about which only football anoraks got excited because it takes place during the height of the European season.
But now everyone sits up and takes notice of the Africa Cup of Nations, not least the European club managers who lose their African stars for up to a month. That is the price that teams pay for signing African players, something that they did not do in great numbers as little as 10 years ago.
The 2013 African Cup of Nations will be the 29th edition of the event. The Confederation of African Football had awarded the tournament to Libya but later decided to change its venue to South Africa. The competition will kick off on Saturday 19 January and end on Sunday 10 February.
Elephants favourites to stomp to second title
Cote d’Ivoire, otherwise known as Ivory Coast, is the warm favourite to win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. Bookmakers are taking no chances whatsoever with last year’s runner-up trading at odds of under 2-1 to go one better this time. It makes sense that bookmakers favour the Elephants – according to FIFA, they are Africa’s top-ranked side and their 23-man squad includes Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers, Kolo and Yaya – but they are too short for a number of reasons.
First, Cote d’Ivoire has a long history of choking at the business end of major events. For example, it qualified for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations final without conceding a goal in beating Sudan, Burkina Faso, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Mali but it lost 7-8 on penalties to Zambia in the championship match after a 120-minute goalless draw.
Second, Cote d’Ivoire has been drawn in the strongest of the four groups and, if the ante-post markets are on the money, it will have a tough run through the knockout phase as well. According to FIFA, the Elephants have been put in the same round-robin section as the second-, sixth- and ninth-ranked teams, making it the Group of Death. And if everything goes to according to the odds, Cote d’Ivoire will have to defeat 2012 Africa Cup of Nations champion Zambia, 2013 Africa Cup of Nations host South Africa and 2010 FIFA World Cup last-16 qualifier Ghana in sudden-death action to lift the trophy.
And third, bookmakers are quoting attractive odds about some of Cote d’Ivoire’s rivals for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations title, odds that are out of whack with the current rankings.
Trust FIFA’s statistical analysis
FIFA’s world ranking has its flaws – for example, few people would agree with it that England is the world’s sixth best team right now – but it is a much better guide than many people, including bookmakers, recognise and that means it has a tendency to throw up outstanding value bets.
In terms of betting on the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations title winner, two sides stand out: Algeria and Mali. Algeria is, according to FIFA, Africa’s second best team by quite some distance and yet it is on the sixth line at odds of around 14-1. Mali is third in FIFA’s latest rankings and drawn well in Group B alongside Congo DR, Ghana and Niger, yet it is available at odds of around 16-1. One can dutch Algeria and Mali and get almost 7-1, which represents decent business compared to backing Cote d’Ivoire at less than 2-1.
Of course, both Algeria and Mali are overpriced to win their respective 2013 Africa Cup of Nations preliminary sections but there are even better FIFA world ranking-driven bets.
Cape Verde is FIFA’s highest ranked side in Group A of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, yet bookmakers are quoting it as the outsider at odds of around 14-1 for first position and 5-1 for the top two. No-one is expecting 69th-ranked Cape Verde to go all the way but FIFA rates it above Morocco (74th), Angola (84th) and South Africa (87th) and that must count for something. Certainly, it should be shorter odds.
Don’t pay the penalty with Paddy Power
Once again, Paddy Power (www.paddypower.com) leads the way with a betting offer related to a major sports competition. Back a team to win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations before the tournament gets under way and, if your selection bows out on penalties, Paddy Power will refund the first 100 British pounds or 100 euro of your stake. View Paddy Power’s easy-to-use website for the full terms and conditions of its special offer.
Since the introduction of penalty competitions to the Africa Cup of Nations – they have been available for use since the 1978 tournament in Ghana – 21 teams have exited the event in the cruelest possible manner. A total of 98 quarter-final, semi-final or final games could have gone to penalties so one is talking about a 21.4 per cent incidence rate. With seven knockout matches laid down for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations – one does not count the bronze medal game – history suggests that either one or two sides will suffer the fate.
Paddy Power’s 2013 Africa Cup of Nations betting offer is not one of its best but it does provide a level of insurance provided that one is not taking under the odds to get it.