African Cup of Nations
The African Cup of Nations kicks off this weekend in Equatorial Guinea. This competition takes place every two years. This tournament started in 1957 and is the most prestigious football tournament in the continent. In 2013, the tournament switched to odd years so that there would not be a clash with the world cup. The tournament starts on January 17th and the final will be on February 8th. Egypt has been this tournament’s most successful country, with 7 wins. Ghana and Cameroon have each won the trophy 4 times. In the last version of this competition, Nigeria beat Burkina Faso in South Africa to win their 3rd title. Following the qualification campaigns, 16 teams were drawn into 4 groups.
One of the better parts of watching African nations play is that they all have great nicknames. Group A has the host nation Equatorial Guinea or the National Thunder. They are led by an Argentinean coach named Esteban Becker. They are currently ranked 118 in the world. The host nation are favored 33/1 to win the tournament. Burkina Faso, Gabon, and Congo all join the hosts in Group A. Burkina Faso’s nickname is the Stallions and they are ranked 64th in the world. They are led by the Belgium coach Paul Put and are 14/1 to win the tournament. They were the last tournament’s runners up. The Panthers of Gabon are ranked 62nd in the world with 20/1 odds to win. They might have the most recognizable player in the group in Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund. The last team in the group is the Red Devils of Congo. They have the biggest odds in the group to win the tournament at 40/1. They won the tournament in 1972 and come into this tournament as the highest ranked team in the group at 61.
In Group B we see the 2012 winners Zambia, Tunisia, Cape Verde, and DR Congo. Zambia’s nickname is the Bullets. They will look to get back to the top of African football and improve their 50th ranking in the world. They bring 33/1 odds to win the tournament. Tunisia won the tournament in 2004 and are known as the Eagles of Carthage. They are ranked 22nd in the world and are 9/1 to win it all. Cape Verde have never reached the semi finals of the tournament. The Blue Sharks are 25/1 odds to win the tournament and are ranked 40th in the world. The Democratic Repeublic of Congo have won the competition twice in 1968 and 1974. The Leopards are ranked 57th in the world. They will look to win their third tournament with 25/1 odds to win it all.
Ghana and Algeria headline group C. South Africa and Senegal join them. The Black Stars of Ghana come into the tournament ranked 37th in the world and are 8/1 favorites to win it all. Asamoah Gyan leads a team of big names including Christian Atsu, Wakaso Mubarak, Jordan Ayew, Andre Ayew, and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu. Algeria are the highest ranked team in the tournament at 18th. They are led by captain Madjiid Bougherra and have some big name players on their roster like Nabil Bentaleb, Riyad Mahrez, Sofiane Feghouli, Djamel Mesbah, and Foued Kadir. They are favorites to win the tournament at 4/1. Algeria have two nicknames. They go by either the Greens or the Desert Warriors. The 2010 World Cup hosts are also in the group. South Africa is the lowest ranked team in the group at 52nd and has the biggest odds at 20/1. Bafana Bafana won the competition in 1996. The last team in Group C is the Lions of Teranga, or Senegal. Senegal has some big names on their roster. Papiss Cisse, Mame Biram Diouf, and Cheikhou Kouyate all are involved for the 35th ranked team in the world. Senegal are 16/1 odds to win the tournament.
Ivory Coast, Mali, Cameroon, Guinea make up Group D. The Elephants are 4/1 favorites to win as they look to lift their second Cup of Nations trophy. The Ivory Coast won their first in 1992 after an epic 11-10 penalty shoot out. The 28th ranked team is led by the Toure brothers, Yaya and Kolo, along with Cheick Tiote, Gervinho, Wilfried Bony, Max Gradel and Lacina Traore to name but a few. The Eagles of Mali will try to win their first ever tournament. They are currently ranked 49th in the world and feature Seydou Keita, Modibo Maiga, Bakary Sako, and Yacouba Sylla. The Eagles are 25/1 to win. Cameroon have won the tournament 4 times. The Indomitable Lions lifted the trophy in 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2002. The 42nd ranked team enter the tournament at 9/1 odds to win this year. They feature Stephane Mbia, Nicolas N’Koulu, and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. The real question for Cameroon is can they deal without Samuel Eto’o and Alex Song. The final team in the group is Guinea. The National Elephants, as they are known, come in ranked 39th in the world. They reached the final in 1976, but have not won the competition. They will look to win their first behind Kamil Zayatte and Ibrahima Traore at 40/1.
The Cup of Nations is always a tournament that is full of surprises and very difficult to predict, but I will give it a try. From Group A, I think Burkina Faso will win the group as they look to make it back to the final, and Congo will advance as runners up. Tunisia should easily win group B with the DR Congo coming in second. Group C is probably the toughest to predict, but I think that Algeria will win the group and the Black Stars will come in second. In Group D, I think Cameroon could struggle so I see Ivory Coast winning the group with Guinea coming in as runners up. Then I see Burkina Faso knocking off DR Congo and the Ivory Coast tripping up against Ghana. Ghana will then go on and end Burkina Faso’s hopes of a title. Algeria should easily take care of Guinea and then Congo after Congo upsets Tunisia. This would set up a great final between Algeria and Ghana. Algeria are the most talented team in tournament and should come away as champions for the second time in their history.
Copa Del Rey Review
The holders are out! Real Madrid’s defense of their Copa Del Rey title ended 50 seconds into the game yesterday when Fernando Torres scored his first goal back at Atletico Madrid. That goal put Atleti up 3-0 and gave them a crucial away goal. The game would end up 2-2 with Torres adding a second and knocking out the defending champions. This victory sent Atletico Madrid into the quarter finals. The journey doesn’t get easier for Atleti, as they now face Barcelona. Barcelona cruised past Elche as they massively rotated their squad. The other quarter final match ups are Malaga and Athletico Bilbao, Espanyol vs Sevilla, and Villarreal and Getafe.
Juventus will look to extend their lead at top of Serie A as they host Verona. On Saturday, Roma can temporarily cut the lead that Juventus has when they travel to Palermo. A win for Roma would put them level on points with Juventus before they play on Sunday. The biggest match in Italy takes place in Rome again this weekend as Lazio host Napoli. These two teams are separated by one point and currently sit in 3rd and 4th place. In Italy, only 3 teams qualify for the Champions League so this game will go a long way in deciding who gets the last spot.
New leaders Lyon will look to stay atop on Saturday when they travel to Lens. Lyon will hope Lacazette continues his hot streak and can keep scoring. The next 3 teams all play on Sunday. PSG host Evian, St. Etienne travel to Rennes, and Marseille host Guingamp. These three teams will hope some of the others slip up as the top 4 are only separated by 4 points.
Real Madrid will look to right the ship after crashing out of the Copa del Rey with a victory in Getafe. Barcelona will look to jump Real Madrid if they slip up as they travel all the way across the country and play Deportivo La Coruna. Atletico Madrid will attempt to keep pace as they host Granada.
In the premier league this weekend, Chelsea will aspire to extend their lead at the top as they travel to the South of Wales. Swansea will try to get another good result at home having already beaten Arsenal at home. Chelsea will look to extend their lead at the top to 5 points going into Sunday. City play in the big matchup of the weekend when they host Arsenal on Sunday. The first game was 2-2 in the Emirates last September. The bottom of the English table is almost as exciting as the top. The bottom 12 teams are all currently one defeat away from finding themselves inside the bottom 3. QPR will look to get out of the bottom 3 as they host Manchester United. United will try to jump back into the top 3. Third place Southampton travel to the North East and play Newcastle as they look to maintain their Champions League position.
EPL Pick ‘Em
The current score is Buzz 144 to Me at 135.
Here are my picks for the week: Spurs 2-1, Leicester 1-0, Crystal Palace 2-1, Chelsea 1-1, Pool 2-1, United 2-1, Saints 2-1, Hammers 2-1, City 2-1, Everton 1-1
Buzz’s Picks: Spurs 2-1, Pool 2-1, Stoke 1-1, Palace 1-0, Chelsea 2-0, United 3-1, Saints 3-1, W. Ham 2-0, City 2-1, Everton 2-1