Hosts Cameroon to assume AFCON favourites tag
AFCON hosts Cameroon can seal automatic qualification to the round of 16 with a game to spare if they live to their newly acquired tournament favourites tag and dispatch Ethiopia. Les Lions Indomitables had a brace of Vincent Aboubakar penalties to thank for their comeback win over Burkina Faso in the curtain raiser, and should have a more comfortable outing on Thursday afternoon. Read our preview here:
Out the way, Zambo!
Veteran Portuguese head coach Toni Conceição has overseen a rise back to prominence in the two and a half years in post since succeeding the legendary Clarence Seedorf. Having swatted aside the Ivory Coast to top their World Cup qualification pool (their play-off opponents over two legs to reach Qatar are not yet known), they also topped their group for this tournament, despite having an automatic berth as hosts. The tactical setup is based largely on the strength of the midfield in a 4-1-4-1, with Samuel Oum Gouet at its base. Ahead of him are the pair of Pierre Kunde and Fulham's André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, who signed a new contract with the Cottagers before heading out on loan in the last window to Serie A challengers Napoli. Very good defensively, he is renowned for being able to carry the ball into and then beyond the middle third of the pitch, an attribute that will be crucial in ensuring Aboubakar receives adequate support as the tournament wears on. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting will probably make another cameo from the bench if needed, but the XI should be unchanged.
Dagnachew on that
Wubetu Abate's charges have it all to do if they're to at least attain one of the best third place spots to get through Group A. A disappointing 1-0 defeat to Cape Verde must quickly be put behind them, and the challenge of the hosts is far more onerous. A 4-3-3 emphasising quick interplays over width is the order of the day, where the task for Surafel Dagnachew will be to somehow stop Anguissa in his tracks without sacrificing Walias' own attacking impetus. Striker Getaneh Kebede has an impressive one-in-two ratio for his national side, and his teammates will have to take more risks to provide him the chances he'll need to hurt the opposition.
On paper, this is a banker for Cameroon, but they will have to show they've learned lessons from going behind against Burkina Faso, a scoreline that wasn't just because of nerves. Casumo have odds of 4.30 for a 2-0 win to seal their passage into the knockouts, and leave Ethiopia almost certainly out with a game to spare.