Saturday, February 04, 2012


Rickie Fowler is in a share of 22nd place at the Waste Management Phoenix Open after two rounds, a two over par six at the 17th hole cost him dear and what would have been a share of sixth place overnight, but he is still very much in contention for that top ten finish.

There is a bet below for today's African Cup of Nations quarter finals, but it is the pre tournament preview, part of which is also reproduced, that contained the real "gold" and all of you were offered a free copy of that on January 20th.

I will be back later in the day with some more thoughts.



My original ACN notes are reproduced below, we were firmly in the Ghana and Zambia camp then and I am happy with the way things have gone so far and we have a good value outright bet, even better if you have taken Zambia too, even if it was only for a couple of euros.

Zambia have continued to impress me and were it not for the monsoon in Bata on Matchday 2, I am certain the would be three from three so far. Sudan have overachieved to reach this stage and were fortunate that they met an already eliminated Burkina Faso team in the last round of matches and also that the Ivory Coast played fair and beat Angola, a match they did not need to win. I am convinced that Sedan will sit back today and try and stifle the game, but do not feel they are solid enough defensively, having conceded in all three group starts, to keep the talented and pacy Zambian forwards out for 45 minutes, let alone 90. They lost a key central defender in their last game and that means a defensive reshuffle too today. I cannot see beyond this very talented Zambian team who have unfinished business in this competition. 1.75 units Zambia -0.5 ball 1.80 + asian line.

Written 20/01
Zambia arrive here without Jacob Mulenga, the Utrecht striker and he will be missed, but I expect them to go well none the less. They will arrive as one of the best prepared, the squad having been together pretty much since early December, that is over six weeks and included some high altitude work which is going to serve them well down at these sea level venues, we discussed the ( perhaps obvious) benefits of this during the last World Cup. They are a confident bunch and with many still in their early twenties, are improving and they look set to play a part in all major championships in the next 4-5 years. Four of the starters were regulars in their own "golden generation" team which performed with great credit at the 2007 U20 World Cup, beating Uruguay and running Spain, who included Mata and Gerard Pique, close and even ragged at times.

If you watched the last ACN, you will doubtless remember them, they lost in the quarter finals to Nigeria on penalties in a match they totally dominated and previously were all over Cameroon in the group decider, losing to a very late winner after missing several chances to take a two goal lead. That is a problem, they do not score quite enough in relation to the chances they create, but mark my words, this is a very talented group.

They have extra motivation to do well, as much for a former generation as theirselves, with 28 national players and officials dying off the coast of Libreville, Gabon en route to a World Cup qualifier with Senegal in Dakar in 1994. Even the President spoke of this in a personal message to the squad, saying
“You will recall from history and from your football leadership the special place that Gabon – venue of the 2012 final match – holds in our football history. It is the place where your predecessors valiantly died off the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
Therefore, this tournament brings us those memories and makes this Africa Cup a very emotional one. That, however, should not put you under any pressure. It should instead inspire you to conquer.”

He then went on to urge his team to "die a little for Mother Zanbia " and to "fight for every ball, cover every space and in the true sense of the might of the Chipolopolo, never to feel intimidated by anybody or surrender to any opposition."

I wonder if David Cameron will get so passionate before Euro 2012 !

Back in charge since October is Herve Renard, who guided them to the last eight in 2010, he left after that and was replaced by italian coach Dario Bonetti, that didn't work very well, an italian in Zambia was like oil on water and the players called upon their FA and President to remove him, they admitted afterwards that Bonetti had given them a tactical edge they perhaps lacked before, but are so much happier with Renard at the helm and the six weeks together have helped them re-bond as a unit. They are still as explosive, but feel they have added discipline to their approach and that will serve them very well here. If not, keep them in mind for World Cup qualification, even though they will have to finish above Ghana to advance.

I am sure that we will make some money in the next month following Senegal and Zambia, unfortunately they start against each other, my feeling is that Zambia at circa 6.50 are ridiculously big to win and if pushed to pick on the asian line, I would have to side with them getting a 0.75 goal handicap start, in a match where a draw would not be the end of the world for the favoured team, but think I will have to pass.

On the other side of the draw are Ghana, who look very strong indeed. We all got a glimpse of their potential in the last World Cup, 14 of this squad were involved in South Africa and which made the quarter finals, seven of those are still only aged between 21 and 23 and this is a group of immense talent and potential which is going to continue to improve. Whilst young, they are battle hardened and the core were in the squad which lost in extra time to a star laden Spain in the semi-finals of the 2007 U17 World Cup. Seven were in the group which went even better in the U20 running in 2009, beating Brazil in the final

Seventeen of this current squad are aged 25 or younger, but experienced, with 13 having over 23 apperances, well above average for the tournament. After finishing 3rd in 2008, runner up in 2010, they are poised to go one better this time round and in a group where it is difficult to see them struggling and no Ivory Coast, Senegal or even dare I say it, Zambia on the immediate horizon, they should be able to work their way slowly into peak form.

They look so much stronger now than the team which made the last 8 in South Africa and they are my idea of the winners. 1.5 units Ghana outright 5.0 + ... there is some 5.50 available.

I do think that Zambia, available at 85.0 on Betfair for tiny money, will trade much shorter at some stage and will offer trading opportunities for whomever is quick enough to take it !

Good Luck.

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