Friday, January 28, 2022

CAN 2021--Quarterfinals

Servus Syndicate Members,

It's continental ecstasy is it not, gentlemen?

One could have scarcely hoped for a better quarterfinal round. 

Three West African powerhouses. Two North African giants. A pair of Cinderellas in the second knockout round. 

What could possibly put a damper on our African reverie? 

Ah shit. There's been another coup, hasn't there?  

Africa lovers are actually quite accustomed to this. It happens more often than one might think during this tournament. As always, from the very beginning your friendly bookie never promised you an exclusively fairy tales.

Spare a care for the Stallions of Burkina Faso. Imagine, as they did, prevailing in a emotionally exhausting nine round penalty shootout, then waking up the next morning to learn that your family and friends might be among the endangered protesters on the streets of Ouagadougou.

Somehow, these lads have to pull it together for another pressure-cooker of a football match. You may think it's difficult to rise each morning and put on a brave face for your job. African footballers have been through things you just wouldn't believe. 

Merely to list country's playing through civil strife in the pages covered by this sports book alone over the years: 

Togo, Algeria, Angola, Tunisia, Congo DR, Libya, Namibia, Benin, Guinea, Mali, Liberia, Somalia, Niger, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Gabon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Botswana, Zambia, Liberia, and Niger. 

Whew. Bookie thinks that covers all of them in no particular order. Note that we've only been covering AFCON on the blog since 2013. Those are just the countries with issues in the last nine years.

...a happier photo perhaps to get us back to the football? 

Ride on Burkinabé Stallions. We're all with you. 

Bookie's Updated Stats

Spread: 17-27

Straight Up: 22-13-9

Two equally big heartbreakers for the bookie. 

Sniff. So long "Aigles" of Mali. That was a particularly cruel way to go. 

Ugh. Still reeling from Cote d'Ivoire's elimination under almost identical shootout circumstances. I don't want to get off the pitch either. About all I can do is invite Eric Bailly to come present these Lines with me. 

I know, brother. I know. 

Somehow we must find the strength to move on.

Saturday, January 29th

Gambia vs. Cameroon


Hard to believe that we're discussing this matchup...oh right except for the fact that your friendly bookie predicted it! You know full well that your oddsmaker knows a magical tournament dark horse when he sees it! Congrats to all of you who picked up the tip and rode the Gambian pony all the way to the bank. 

Everyone finds themselves in the grip of "Scorpions Fever". 

Alas, there comes a time to wrap it up with the metaphors. Cinderella goes home. The Dark Horse gets dismounted. The Scorpion loses its sting. Have your pick. Hosts Cameroon may have played their decidedly worst match of the tournament against the Comoros. 

That works to their advantage. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and André-Frank Zambo Anguissa won't get another start. Instead, we'll see Toni Conceiçao deploy the more reliable 4-4-2 that got us truly kick-started in this tournament.

Might be in for some hi-flying, hi-scoring fun in any case. 

Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own)

Over/Under—4 Goals 

120 Minutes—2 to 1

Penalty Shootout—3 to 1

  Mu. Barrow goal—Straight Up

  Mu. Barrow goal—2 to 1

 Choupo-Moting Start—2 to 1

 N'jie start—2 to 1

THE LINE: Cameroon +2 Goals

Burkina Faso vs. Tunisia


The Eagles of Carthage may now be known--much to the bookie's chagrin as the "Super Eagle Killers". Our initially selected tournament favorites have unequivocally finally gotten their game established. In his seventh AFCON for country, one would be ill-advised to bet against a confident Youssef Msakni.

Sigh. As an unapologetic Burkinabé lover, your friendly bookie isn't liking where this is going at all. You've surely noticed that far less time has been invested in tactical analysis this time. In point of fact, all of your bookie's other writing obligations left him without much time to do any at all. 

Even ramming up against the overcommitted writer's point at which words begin to lose their meaning, I couldn't resist here. I broke out the tactics board and tried to make something work for the Stallions amid the suspensions and the fatigue factor stemming from the previous fixture.  

Bertrand Traoré and Hassane Bandé can still spearhead the attack. The totally depleted midfield spells certain doom. I'm throwing Dango Outtara and Kouamé Bouté back there just to plug it. Not good. Ellyes Skhiri can have a field day with this. 

About the only thing the Burkinabé's have going for them is the memories of that spectacular 2-0 upset of the Tunisians at this very stage back in 2017. Everyone recall that quarterfinal gem?

Good God, yes! Aristide Bancé and Préjuce Kakoulma. Can lightning strike twice? Probably not without Paulo Duarte making the personnel calls. That's a shame. 

Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own)

Over/Under—3 Goals 

120 Minutes—2 to 1 

Penalty Shootout—3 to 1

  B. Traoré brace —2 to 1

  A.F Tapsoba goal—2 to 1

 Skhiri goal—Straight Up

 Khazri goal—Straight Up

THE LINE: Tunisia +1 Goal

Sunday, January 30th

Egypt vs. Morocco


Un-effing-believeable. How about this for a Sunday wake-up-call? It's desert pandemonium in another monster match that happens to be another re-match of a 2017 Quarterfinal fixture! That particular tournament/syndicate chapter holds a very special place in the bookie's heart. 

So many dramatic late victories that year. In the one we're specifically referencing here, good ol' Mahmoud Abdel "Kahraba" Moneim officially (and emotionally) brought Egyptian football back with that 88th minute 1-0 winner to defeat the Lions of the Atlas. 

Click, click......BANG!

Come to think of it, Sizwe Mabena was probably the real reason the bookie loved that tournament so much. Every trip down memory lane truly begins with the South African broadcaster. Where the hell has the real star of that competition been all these years?

Anyways, we've gotten totally off tangent. Hope everyone appreciates the old picture of Mo Salah up there in the years before his breakthrough to global stardom. Here's how he looked after sinking the match-winning penalty against "Les Elephants" on Wednesday. 

All very well and good. 

Mo and the Pharaohs run into a bit of difficulty here in that the Moroccans may be the most complete team in the tournament. Carlos Queiroz is running a ramshackle bunch whilst Vahid Halihodzic lords over a well-tuned engine. 

Did the bookie bloody well tell you about Achraf Hakimi or what?

You're getting a high line here. 

Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own)

Over/Under—3 Goals  

120 Minutes—Straight Up 

Penalty Shootout—2 to 1

 Salah brace—2 to 1

 Marmoush goal—3 to 1

 Hakimi goal—Straight Up

 En-Nesyri goal—Straight Up

THE LINE: Morocco +2 Goals 

Senegal vs. Equatorial Guinea


Aliou Cissé (everyone's favorite cult trainer) may very well be the luckiest  man in the tournament thus far. Again, his Terangans played poorly. Again, they managed to dig out a victory against a side reduced to nine men by two red cards. Even then, overall play was substandard. 

Oh well. At least there's some wind in the sails. 

Not much wind it should take to send the underdogs home here. The National Thunder still have no reliable scoring threat. Keep your eyes open for the potential upset if the match drags on scoreless for a while. 

Apart from that, the bookie has no major qualms about ending this section with a straightforward pick. Cissé can count himself lucky again to get the weakest quarterfinal contender handed to him on a platter.

The Equatoguineans could very well bow out at this stage just as badly as they did in 2015. Bookie still doesn't trust Senegal for much more than a one-goal victory. 

Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own)

Over/Under—3 Goals 

120 Minutes—2 to 1

Penalty Shootout—3 to 1

 Mané brace—2 to 1

 B. Sarr goal—3 to 1

 Ganet goal—2 to 1

 Ovono start—2 to 1

THE LINE: Senegal +1 Goal


Monday, January 24, 2022

CAN 2021--Round-of-Sixteen (Part II)


Servus Syndicate Members,

Life's just too damned good, gentlemen. 

It always is when we reach this stage of this particular international. 

The "mother continent" always delivers. If you choose to shutter your eyes to this tournament, that is your personal loss. 

This world offers misery, dejection, fear, and constant outrage to those who seek it out. 

It also offers the color, light, passion, and power of football. The choice is yours. 

Bookie's Updated Stats

Spread: 15-25

Straight Up: 20-13-7

A shootout that went 18 spot kicks deep anyone?

Ride on, Stallions!

How about the ultimate Cinderella Story? 

The sting of the Scorpions!

At least the bookie got something right! Totally misfired on the "Super Eagles".

At least we still have the tournament hosts. 

"No, you're the man!" 

"Hell with that, you're the man!"

So it goes with footballers. Cherish every moment!

Tuesday, January 25th

Senegal vs. Cape Verde

We're all a bit concerned for Alsio Cissé's Lions at this point. Only one goal scored in group stage play. Two 0-0 draws were still enough to top the group, but from whence shall this awakening come?

It's far from clear. African football's "Philosopher King" has done his fair share of thinking. Sadio Mané worked as a lead striker in the first match, an anchoring ten in the second, and a left flanker in the third

Still the answers don't come. 
The elimination rounds offer all a clean slate, but nothing has even had a chance to take hold and incubate yet. It's late. Perhaps too late to pull something together to stop a Verdean veteran team largely accustomed to one another. 
Call the bookie's tactical instincts into action, will you? Fine. Divot Ismaila Sarr as a false-nine. Keep Mané on the left and give Bamba Dieng the go opposite. 
It is accomplished.
Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own)

Over/Under—3 Goals 

120 Minutes—Straight Up

Penalty Shootout—2 to 1

 Mané brace—2 to 1

 H. Diallo start—Straight Up

 G. Rodrigues start—Straight Up

 K.R. Santos brace—3 to 1


THE LINE: Senegal +1 goal

Morocco vs. Malawi


There may yet be room still in this quarterfinal set for one more cinderella.  The "Flames" were among those who met their "upset special" status. Team spirit remains in line with hair-dye coordination. 

Regrettably, hair-dye coordination seems to be the only type of group chemistry holding at this point. One could tell during the Senegal match that Malawi were bucking and breaking at times. 

There's also the fact that they're up against this man when he happens to be coming into form. 

Yeah. Achraf Hakimi in the mood. The heart called for another "upset alert", but sadly we must refrain from pushing the button here. 

Looking forward to a fast, fun, and even close one here. In the final analysis, the favorites likely prevail.

Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own)

Over/Under—4 Goals

120 Minutes—Straight Up

Penalty Shootout—2 to 1

 Boufal goal—Straight Up

 Dual Mmaee start—Straight Up

 Mhango brace—3 to 1

 Madinga goal—2 to 1

THE LINE: Morocco +1 goal

Wednesday, January 26th

Cote d'Ivoire vs. Egypt


The absolute marquee matchup of the first elimination round. Exceptionally hard to pick out a winner. A crying shame to have to pick out a winner. Noting your friendly bookie's slight sub-Saharan bias, you can digest the pick. 

Too much pop in this year's version of Les Elephants. Once a Carlos Queiroz Apostle, the bookie can't comprehend what he's seeing from the Portuguese trainer currently in charge of the Pharaohs at this point. 

It's all set up for the 2015 Champions to supply us with more special moments still. Apologies to the record continental champions, but the revival with have to wait another year.

Could be a real high-scoring cracker, though.

Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own)

Over/Under—4 Goals

120 Minutes—Straight Up

Penalty Shootout—Straight Up

 Pépé brace—Straight Up

 Zaha goal—2 to 1

 Salah brace—2 to 1

 Marmoush goal—3 to 1

THE LINE: Cote d'Ivoire +1 goal

Mali vs. Equatorial Guinea


Feeling pretty good about "Les Aigles" prospects here, even if they are playing a two-win team. The National Thunder were fairly bang average in both of their victories. The 2015 hosts are not to be underestimated of course, but neither are the "salute crew".

Good God does your friendly bookie love this country and this team. It doesn't matter how many Traorés, Konés, Camaras, and Coulibalys they confuse us with every year. 

Keep them coming. I don't care if they drive me crosseyed every year. Look, it's a sentimental pick. I can have one of those. 

By the way, since we haven't mentioned it since the preview section.:


This country has earned its right to football!

Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own)

Over/Under—2 Goals 

120 Minutes—Straight Up

Penalty Shootout—2 to 1

 Doumbia brace—2 to 1

 I. Koné brace—2 to 1

 Ganet goal—2 to 1

 Ovono start—2 to 1

THE LINE: Mali +1 goal