Algeria – -217.39 at Bovada
Draw – +300
Kenya – +750
Kenya will launch their audacious bid for the most prestigious prize in African football when they face Algeria in their opening match of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. The Group C encounter is set to take place on Sunday night at the 30 June Stadium in Egypt’s capital, Cairo.
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The Harambee Stars booked their ticket to the 32nd edition of the tournament by finishing second on seven points in Group F of AFCON qualifying, two points behind group winners Ghana. Ethiopia finished third having earned a paltry point from their four qualifying matches, whereas Sierra Leone were disqualified and all their matches annulled after FIFA suspended the nation’s football association on the grounds of government interference.
Kenya’s journey to their first AFCON finals in 15 years wasn’t a smooth sailing one, as it began with a cancelled match against Sierra Leone back in June 2017. The Harambee Stars used the time until their next qualifiers to play in the CECAFA Cup – a title they went on to clinch following a 3-2 win over Zanzibar on penalties.
Perhaps their best achievement in the qualifiers was the 1-0 win over Ghana at the Kasarani, given how the four-time African champions were expected to provide the sternest test for the East Africans. The marginal yet decisive win over the Black Stars was soon followed by a barren draw away to Ethiopia, before the Kenyans unleashed a 3-0 whooping to their northern neighbours in the return leg in Nairobi.
By the time their second scheduled fixture against Sierra Leone had been cancelled, Kenya had already booked their ticked to Egypt. Thus, the subsequent 1-0 defeat away to Ghana meant nothing more than finishing second in Group F.
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Algeria secured their 18th AFCON finals appearance by finishing atop of Group D of the qualifiers. The Desert Foxes won the group on 11 points, a point ahead of Benin and five points ahead of Gambia in third. Togo finished at the foot of the qualifying group after winning only once and collecting two draws and three defeats.
The North Africans began their qualifying campaign with a 1-0 triumph over Togo in June 2017 before settling for a 1-1 draw away to Gambia a little more than a year later. A 3-0 aggregate win over Benin during the final quarter of last year was followed by a thrilling 4-1 victory over Togo at the Stade de Kégué. Having already secured an automatic place at Egypt 2019, a 1-1 draw with Gambia was enough to see Djamel Belmadi’s charges go through as group winners.
Algeria vs Kenya players to watch
Michael Olunga is undoubtedly Kenya’s biggest attacking threat. The former Gor Mahia striker, who currently plies his trade for Kashiwa Reysol in Japan, duly delivered during the qualifiers by scoring two goals to the good. Lightning quick, standing at 6’2” and with a wicked left foot, the 25-year-old will certainly cause plenty of problems for opposing defenders.
Victor Wanyama is a veteran of the game and it is to no surprise that the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder was handpicked to skipper the side by head coach Sebastien Migne. An anchor in the middle with a goal to his name in the qualifiers, his experience and contribution to Tottenham’s campaign, in which they reached the Champions League final, will play an integral role in Kenya’s chances of success in the tournament.
Quite assuredly Algeria’s best player, Riyad Mahrez looks poised to set the tournament ablaze. The 28-year-old had an assertive season with Manchester City, as his 12 goals and 12 assists guided the Citizens to a domestic treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup. The former Leicester City forward will certainly hog all the headlines for the Desert Warriors.
There can be no mention of the Algeria national football team without bringing up the name Yacine Brahimi. An exciting playmaker and a technically gifted attacking midfielder, it is no surprise that the 29-year-old has attracted the interest of English Premier League side Everton after he scored 12 goals in all competitions for FC Porto last season.
Algeria vs Kenya AFCON 2019 betting tips
As former winners of the competition, having lifted the coveted title in 1990, and with thrice as many appearances in the AFCON finals as Kenya, the Desert Foxes are certainly the better side on paper. The bookies have Algeria as favorites to coast to victory, but the North Africans should be careful not to underestimate Sebastien Migne’s side.
Form and recent results
Algeria 3-2 Mali (June 16, 2019)
Algeria 1-1 Burundi (June 11, 2019)
Algeria 1-0 Tunisia (March 26, 2019)
Algeria 1-1 Gambia (March 22, 2019)
Kenya 1-1 DR Congo (June 15, 2019)
Kenya 1-0 Madagascar (June 7, 2019)
Ghana 1-0 Kenya (March 23, 2019)
Kenya 3-0 Ethiopia (October 14, 2018)
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