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Nic Ladds 27th Jan 2010 - 12:54

Africa Cup of Nations semi-final previews

Ghana v Nigeria

Ghana and Nigeria, two giants of African football, meet each other in the first of two semi-final encounters on Thursday. This match is a huge West Africa rivalry and sparks will be flying as they battle for a place in the final

Ghana (9/5) haven't won this tournament since 1982 but after knocking out hosts Angola in the previous round, confidence will be sky high - although the home crowd may not be too welcoming. Goal scoring hero Asamoah Gyan is 6/1 to get on the score sheet first here and the Rennes front man is a potential match winner so keep an eye on him.

Injuries to Essien, Appiah, Muntari, Mensah and Pantsil have seriously depleted Ghana's squad and even getting this far could be seen as an achievement. The Black Stars have had to rely on youth, which to most would mean failure, but their Under-20 squad won their World Cup this year and there is some real quality in there.

Nigeria (7/4) are considered lucky to make it this far with far from inspiring performances and needing penalties to overcome Zambia in the previous round.

The Super Eagles' squad is far from complete however they do have a couple of bright sparks in there. With the likes of Yakubu and Martins up front (both 6/1 first goal) they always have the potential to get goals.

Nigeria are serial under-performers though and I expect Ghana to come in to this with more confidence, and as long as the crowd don't intimidate them too much they should triumph over their opponents here but it will be tight, I think a 1-0 victory at 5/1 is a good shout.


Algeria v Egypt

Egypt insist they aren't looking for revenge against Algeria for beating them in the World Cup play-offs and taking their place in the World Cup, but it will certainly inspire Egypt on to what I predict to be a safe passage for them to the final.

Egypt (13/10) are the current tournament favourites and look set for at least making the final here. With players such as Mohammed Zidan (6/1 first goal) up front and Ahmed Hassan (11/4 anytime) in the middle they have some real threats with the latter having a great scoring record from wide positions.

Their tie in the World Cup play-off was marred by violence and off the field incidents, which although is never welcomed in the game, should surely created a fierce atmosphere for the two teams to battle it out in.

Algeria (12/5) should really be proud to have progressed this far and surely the final is one step too far for them. They are certainly a hard working side, and could upset Egypt here but if I was to bet on them it would probably be on the +1 goal handicap market at 4/7.

Team news looks good too with playmaker Karim Ziani (4/1 anytime scorer) passed fit and also goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi will be welcomed back between the sticks after impressing in the win over Ivory Coast.

In terms of goal threats, Algeria will look to Siena striker Abdelkader Ghezzal (7/1 first) and Rafik Saifi (15/2 first) to score but I think Egypt will have the quality and experience to quash any threats and avenge their World Cup heartache.

A prediction here is Egypt to win 2-0 and at 7/1, it certainly offers some value. If I was to look towards Algeria to cause an upset I would certainly be covering myself by backing the double chance of Algeria and the draw at 8/13.



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