2.5pts Ademola Lookman (Nigeria) to commit 2+ fouls vs South Africa at 8/11 (Betfair, Paddys)
1.5pts Ivory Coast 14+ fouls and DR Congo 15+ fouls committed at 13/8 (Sky Bet)
1pt Teboho Mokoena (South Africa) to be carded vs Nigeria at 10/3 (bet365)
Nigeria are firmly the tournament favourites after reaching the AFCON semi-finals for a record 15th time, though five of their last six appearances at this stage have ended in defeat.
They take on South Africa, who won't fear the Super Eagles having already knocked out two sides ranked higher in the FIFA World Rankings at this tournament, seeing off Tunisia (28th) in the group stage in a game the Tunisians had to win, and Morocco (13th), the pre-tournament favourites and 2022 World Cup semi-finalists.
It will be a more competitive game than many may expect, but Nigeria have really impressed me. They are playing team football, focusing on being solid defensively and trusting their attacking triumvirate of Moses Simon, Ademola Lookman and Victor Osimhen - supported by Alex Iwobi - to get them over the line.
They have kept four straight clean sheets, all in wins, allowing just 0.50 xGA per game so win to nil has some appeal, but my interest has been piqued in the player foul market once again.
ADEMOLA LOOKMAN has been sensational for Nigeria at AFCON, scoring three and assisting one, with all of his goals coming in the knockout rounds, but his FOULS COMMITTED stats jump off the page, so backing him 2+ FOULS is a must-bet at 8/11.
Lookman has committed 3, 3, 5 and 2 fouls in the four games he has started at AFCON, registering a foul in his 10 minute cameo against Guinea-Bissau in round three of the group stage.
He's averaging 3.5 fouls committed per 90 this tournament, with his work-rate and pressing impressive in that inside left channel. The Atalanta winger is clearly unafraid to get stuck in and break up play, so 8/11 in a semi-final where the stakes get even higher makes immense appeal. The same bet is as short as 2/9 in places.
Playing up against him in that inside left channel is likely to be TEBOHO MOKOENA, and he looks nicely priced TO BE CARDED.
Mokoena plays right side of a midfield two for South Africa, so will likely be tasked with tracking Lookman, who as well as committing fouls, draws plenty. Lookman has been fouled an average of 3.3 times per 90, and Mokoena has committed 2.6 fouls per 90, so that match-up could be one that yields plenty of potential betting angles.
Taking him to be carded appeals at 10/3 more than 3+ fouls at 7/5, as the chances are he ends up with a booking after an accumulation of fouls, especially with the stakes ramped up and the trickery level of his opponents up a level.
The referee here is Egyptian Amin Mohamed Omar, and he has overseen only two games at AFCON, both in the group stage. He flashed three yellows in the competition opener as Ivory Coast beat Guinea-Bissau, and just one yellow in Tanzania's goalless draw with DR Congo, but this is a much more important game and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him more active in this one.
Yes, somehow host nation Ivory Coast are still in AFCON. They needed things to go their way to qualify as the fourth best third placed team from the group stage, scored an 86th minute penalty to equalise against Senegal and eventually win on penalties in the last 16 and in the quarter finals they equalised in the 90th minute before scoring the eventual winner in the 122nd to make it to the semi-finals - despite playing with 10-men from the 43rd minute.
Oh, and in between all that they sacked their manager. It's been a mental tournament for them to say the least, but it has to be said, the crowd has been electric in the last two games.
That has definitely fed onto the field too, with the high-octane approach and the fuel from the fans leading to a lot of fouls, and that's an angle I want to explore here.
Given the magnitude of this game, the hosts being involved for a place in the final, I think combining team fouls lines looks like a way in, with IVORY COAST 14+ FOULS AND DR CONGO 15+ FOULS COMMITTED looking a big price at 13/8.
These two sides are extremely even, I can't split them, and they play in similar manners too, meaning it wouldn't be a surprise to see the fouls level at 17-17 at full-time for example.
At AFCON, Ivory Coast have drawn 19.0 fouls per 90, as they are very direct an possess some excellent dribblers, their opponents DR Congo have drawn 13.3 per 90 - though that average is dragged down in a no-contest match against Tanzania where there were 14 total fouls.
In terms of committing fouls, Ivory Coast have averaged 16.0 and DR Congo 14.7 per 90 - again the average of DR Congo pulled down by the Tanzania game - so this should go close given what we have seen from both at the tournament.
Wednesday, February 6
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