No Goal Drought For Desert Foxes
Ivory Coast v Algeria
The last of the quarter-finals in the Africa Cup of Nations takes place on Sunday evening with a battle of the continent’s heavyweights as Ivory Coast go up against Algeria.
A solitary win from their opening three games in the tournament was enough to see Ivory Coast top Group D after all the other matches played between the sides involved ended in 1-1 draws. That crucial victory came in their last group outing against Cameroon, with Max Gradel scoring the only goal of the game to earn just their second win in seven for the Elephants, who have failed to score more than once in any of those games.
Herve Renard’s side have struggled to live up to their billing as one of the pre-tournament favourites overall, although Gradel has scored in each of his last two appearances to make him the joint top scorer in the competition alongside a trio of others.
Algeria enjoyed a pair of wins either side of a defeat to Group C winners Ghana to reach the quarter-finals as runners-up to follow on from their fine showing at last summer’s World Cup. Premier League stars Riyad Mahrez and Nabil Bentaleb made the difference in a 2-0 victory over Senegal in the final group game that assured safe progress to the knockout rounds for the Desert Foxes, who have won only two of their last five overall after enjoying a five game winning streak prior to that which saw them coast through qualification.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign for their hopes of success has been the Algerian’s range of options in front of goal, with four different players and an own goal accounting for the five goals registered so far by the tournament’s top scorers.
Renard has Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tiote available once again after he served a one-game suspension for picking up bookings in the first two group matches. Manchester City’s Yaya Toure is doubtful after the Ivorian’s skipper went off in the closing stages of the win over Cameroon and appeared to be carrying an injury.
Yacine Brahami is a major concern for Algeria as the midfielder was forced off with 20 minutes to play and although he is their only serious doubt his absence would be keenly felt.
There’s very little between the sides in recent years with both games finishing 2-2 after 90 minutes, most recently in the African Cup of Nations in 2013 when Ivory Coast came back from two goals down to claim a point in their group meeting on their way to topping the group as the Algerians were eliminated.
The northern Africans did prevail in extra-time after they’d played out a five-goal thriller at this stage of the 2010 edition of the tournament.
Against a stuttering Ivory Coast who have presumably been made 8/5 favourites to win in 90 minutes, based on their reputation and personnel than any performances in the tournament, Algeria look an outstanding punt at 2/1 to win inside the distance.
The 20/21 about the Desert Foxes qualifying for the semi-final by any means also looks a savvy investment and in the goalscoring market, Leicester attacker Mahrez looks overpriced at 7/2 to score anytime and 10/1 to score first.