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Stuart Dalgleish 17th Jan 2010 - 16:57

Crunch time in Group A

Group A in the Africa Cup of Nations comes to its conclusion on Monday and two of the fancied teams to qualify pre-tournament are on the verge of elimination.

Algeria and Mali were both fancied to do well in the ACN but they currently occupy the third and fourth spots in the group, however both teams still have a chance of going through although Mali have to win and hope Angola win to qualify.

It could've been a lot worse for Mali, as they looked down and out in their opening game before mounting an astonishing come-back to not only draw from 4-0 down with 11 minutes left but to draw from 4-1 down with just two minutes left, an incredible collapse from Angola.

Thankfully for the hosts they managed to recover in their next game, and it is they who are in the box seat for qualification to the quarter-finals.

They go into this game as the slight favourites at odds of 6/5, while the draw and Algeria are both quoted at 2/1.

Two of the reasons why Angola are in pole position is their front two - Manucho and Flavio, while the former might not have been a success in the Premier League for Manchester United or Hull City, he has got an excellent scoring ratio for his country and has been a handful for defences so far in this tournament.

The Black Antelopes' number 23 is an 11/2 chance to grab the opening goal of the game, 6/4 to score at anytime, his strike partner Flavio is the leading scorer in the tournament so far and he's the same price in the first goal and anytime markets but is struggling with a hamstring injury, adding to this midfield man Djalma and defender Zuela have both had muscle complaints.

If Flavio can't make it then Mantorras will be likely to take his place and the Benfica forward is quoted at 13/2 to notch first, 15/8 to bag one at anytime of the game.

Algeria also have an absentee as midfielder Khaled Lemmouchia has left the squad to be with his sick sister in France.

The Algerians have been a bit Jekyll and Hyde so far, woeful in their opening defeat to Malawi, then solid and organised against Mali where they were victorious by a goal to nil, Rafik Halliche got the only goal and is a whopping 40/1 to repeat those heroics with the first of this game, 16/1 just to score at any stage of the game.

Karim Ziani performed well in that game and if he gets chances again then could be good value at 12/1 to score first, an attractive looking 5/1 just to pounce at any point of the 90 minutes.

Which Algeria team will turn up for this one is anyone's guess, but they need to win to make certain of qualification so better make sure that Hyde hides away or their campaign will be over.



Mali have a lot of work to do if they're to make it through to the quarter-finals, they have to beat Malawi and hope that Algeria lose against Angola.

Mali's defending was woeful in their opening group game as they drew 4-4, so they'll have to make sure they don't have another performance like that or they'll be in serious trouble.

You have to think it won't happen against Malawi, as while they were impressive against Algeria, that was just one of those freak results, they were comprehensively beaten by Angola and that result and performance will have knocked the stuffing out of them.

They shouldn't really cause Mali too many problems, Stephen Keshi's side showed tremendous fighting qualities in the match against Angola, they sensed their opponents were complacent and were rewarded for their endeavour by clawing the deficit back to claim the draw.

A draw won't be enough for them in this game though as they have only one point from their first two games. Needing the win, the Eagles are priced at 7/10 to get it, the draw is 5/2 chance while Kinnah Phiri's team are 3/1 to get the three points that would see them progress to the quarter-finals for the first time, to be fair it's only the second time they have qualified for the event so they are exceeding all expectations at the minute.

The player that got Mali back into the game against Angola was Seydou Keita, the Barcelona man has been on good goalscoring form in Spain this season and has taken his club form to the international stage by bagging his 16th and 17th international goals in that game - he's tempting at 7/1 to score first, and 2/1 just to notch at anytime of the game.

Russel Mwafulirwa got the opening goal in Malawi's triumph over Algeria, and the IFK Norrkoping man is available at 9/1 to grab the first of this game as well, 10/3 to get on the scoresheet at any stage of the afternoon.

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