Mali can be the poopers at Angola's party
With events leading up to the Africa Cup of Nations somewhat overshadowing the tournament, hosts Angola will hope they can get off to a positive start against Mali and they are at odds of 13/10 to record an opening victory.
It is impossible to escape the tragic events which has seen the Togo team pull out of the tournament before it has even begun and this has put a black cloud over Angola as a host nation but their players will hope to let their football do the talking but they face a tough opening game with Mali who are 11/5.
Angola put themselves on the football map when they qualified for the 2006 World Cup in Germany and despite a decline since then coach Manuel Jose has made them a much more solid outfit who have become draw specialists as they have come out even in seven of their 11 matches under the Portuguese manager and punters may well take this and latch on to the 11/5 about the stalemate.
Africa Cup of Nations hosts tend to outperform their record though so they will have high hopes of getting off to a winning start but they will need to start scoring goals and Flavio carries most of their hopes, and he along with former Manchester United and Hull player Manucho are 11/2 to open the scoring.
Mali meanwhile have the players to do some real damage to the home nation with what looks one of the strongest midfields in the tournament with Mohamed Sissoko (25/1 for first goal), Mahamdou Diarra (25/1) and Seydou Keita (11/1) all plying their trade in top leagues around the world, while the talismanic Freddie Kanoute (11/2) continues to spearhead the attack.
Punters may be interested to know that 3/7 of Angola's draws have ended 0-0 (13/2) while the other four were 1-1 (9/1) while Mali also finished two thirds of their games last year 1-1.
With their record it is very hard to back the home side to win and 1-0 at 9/2 or 2-1 at 15/2 make little appeal and the feeling is that if Mali can get their big guns firing then they will take some beating and 1-0 at 5/1, 2-0 at 11/1 or 2-1 at 9/1 make more appeal with this expected to be a tight game.
Ten of Mali's 11 games under Jose have ended with under 2.5 goals, a feat which is 1/2 to happen here and in the opening game with neither side wanting to get off to a poor start this could be the likely outcome again with over 2.5 6/4 and under 1.5 goals at 4/6.
Either side to keep a clean sheet could be looked at with Angola 13/10 and Mali 17/10 to keep the other side out while draw/draw is 17/5.
Mali on paper carry the biggest goal threat as Keita could be the man to finally support Kanoute as he has scored 15 times from 50 appearances for Barcelona and if this proves to be the case, the away side could prove dangerous in this game and indeed the whole tournament.
It is dangerous to back against the host nation but Mali look to have more in the locker and while we wouldn't put anyone off backing the draw at 11/5, Mali to win 1-0 at 5/1 with Keita to score anytime to be safe at 4/1 could reap dividends while a scorecast on Keita and 1-0 is 33/1.
Mali to win 1-0 - 5/1