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The 31st edition of the Africa Cup of Nations will kick off on January 14, 2017 at the Stade d'Angondje in Gabon and will run until February 5. Hosts Gabon will play Guinea Bissau in the first match of the tournament before Burkina Faso takes on Cameroon later in the day.
As is traditional, a total of 16 teams will play in the finals of the biennial event, starting with the group stage that has four teams pooled in four groups, before proceeding to the knock out rounds.
AFCON 2017: GROUP STAGE
First-timers Guinea Bissau have been pooled in Group A together with Burkina Faso, Cameroon and the home team Gabon.
Southern Africa country Zimbabwe finds itself in a tough Group C, which also has North African greats Algeria and Tunisia as well as West African powerhouse Senegal.
Defending Champions Ivory Coast will fighting for supremacy with Morocco, DR Congo and Togo in Group C, as Uganda hopes to overcome Ghana, Mali and Egypt to proceed out of Group D.
As is the norm, the teams participating in the tournament will bring their finest players to the tournament, most of whom ply their trade in Europe. For the strikers, and midfielders, it will be a chance to show off their scoring prowess in front of millions of fans from around the world. In the section below, we give you six of the players that will be in contention for the golden boot at the continental championship.
GOLDEN BOOT CONTENDERS
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)
The French-born Gabonese professional footballer who plays for German club Borussia Dortmund was the African Player of the year for 2015 and was selected for the top award for 2016 but lost out to Leicester City midfielder Riyad Mahrez. Aubameyang has made 52 appearances for The Panthers since 2009, scoring 21 goals. In the 2015/16 season the 27-year-old star scored 25 goals for his club in 31 Bundesliga matches, and in the current season, he has 16 goals in 14 outings. His participation at the Cup of Nations will be a great opportunity for him to raise his worth and finally capture the attention of his dream team Real Madrid. Odd of 3.00 on 888sport
Mohammed Salah (Egypt)
The Roma winger has a flair and ball control that can win him goals in almost any match. He has played 45 matches for the North African side ( Bet365 9/1) since 2011, scoring a total of 27 goals. Voted Roma’s player of the year for 2016, Salah partnered well with Edin Dzeko to form one of the most-prolific strike forces in Europe. And when he sustained an ankle injury in training on November 30, 2016, missing three matches, the impact of his absence was greatly felt as his team failed to score in a Europe League match against Astra Girgiu. He, however, made a remarkable recovery and will be in fine form by the time the Cup of Nations Starts.
Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon)
The 24-year-striker, who plays for Turkish club Beşiktaş, is among the few foreign-based players that chose to remain in the Cameroonian national team as many others, including Liverpool’s Joel Matip declined to play in the tournament, citing club commitments. With Coach Hugo Broos placing plenty of hope on him, Aboubakar will be hard-tasked to push for goals as a way of securing his position in the Indomitable Lions ( 10bet 7.75) line-up. A great performance in the African tournament could improve the player’s chances of moving to a bigger European club, at the expense of his boycotting compatriots. This is in addition to winning the celebration of his country mates, who now regard the absent players as selfish traitors.
Asamoah Gyan (Ghana)
The Black Stars captain will be playing his sixth and last Africa Cup of nations, and what better way to end it than by leading his team to glory. Gyan has scored seven goals in the tournament and with little pressure on him to perform in the competition, he might be well relaxed to give a stellar performance. Currently playing in the Arabian Gulf League with Al Ahli Dubai, the 31-year-old father of three has scored 38 goals in 66 appearances for his national team. As far as club football is concerned, he has managed two goals in eight appearances for Al Ahli and as he heads to retirement, he is in far better shape than most of the players he started off with. Odd of 16.00 on 888sport.
Islam Slimani (Algeria)
The Leicester City £25.5million forward has scored five goals in 13 appearances and will be using the Gabon tournament as a platform to prove his mettle. The prized player has scored 24 goals for Algeria ( Bwin 9.00) in 33 matches since his debut in 2012 and a couple of more goals in the continentals will make him more valuable for the English champions. His team is in a tough group and it might be difficult for him to star against teams like Tunisia and Senegal, but he can make a meal out of their pair-up with Zimbabwe.
Wilfried Bony (Ivory Coast)
The Manchester City striker, who is currently on loan to Stoke City, fired twice in 2015 to help the Elephants advance into the semi-finals of the 2015 Cup of Nations with a 3-1 win over Algeria. At the time Ivory Coast ( Ladbrokes 7/2) were looking for a revenge of their extra time defeat at the same stage in 2010 and Bony’s two headers did the job. Bony had just taken over the Ivory Coast mantle after the retirement of the talismanic Didier Drogba in 2014 and in his first stint marshaled the team to their first title since 1992. The 28-year-old has, so far, scored a total of 13 goals in 33 appearances for Ivory Coast. Bony, who started his career at Ivorian side Issia Wazi and has also played for Swansea, Sparta Prague and Vitesse before joining Manchester City has managed two goals for the Potters in nine outings this campaign. The player had gone seven matches without a goal in his new team before netting a brace in their 3-1 victory over former team Swansea. However, this is a far-weaker performance than is expected of him and he will be using the Cup of Nations to revive a career that currently appears to be in the doldrums.
WHICH TEAM WILL WIN THE TOURNAMENT?
Overall Winner (888 Sport): Ivory Coast 4.50, Senegal 6.00, Algeria 7.00, Egypt 9.00, Morocco 9.00, Cameroon , 10.00, Gabon 10.00, Ghana 10.00, Tunisia 21.00, DR Congo 26.00, Mali 26.00, Burkina Faso 36.00, Togo 51.00, Guinea Bissau 101.00, Uganda 101.0, Zimbabwe 101.00.
WHICH TEAM WILL TOP THEIR GROUP?
Group A (Bet 365): Gabon 6/5, Cameroon 11/8, Burkina Faso 9/2, Guinea-Bissau 20/1
Group B (Ladbrokes): Senegal 11/10, Algeria 8/5, Tunisia 7/2, Zimbabwe 20/1
Group C (Bwin): Ivory Coast 1.50, Morocco 4.50, DR Congo 6.00, Togo 21.00
Group D (Real Deal Bet): Egypt 2.35, Ghana 2.35, Mali 4.65, Uganda 16.50
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