Africa Cup of Nations Projections & Best Bets for Knockout Stage (Jan. 23-26)

Africa Cup of Nations Projections & Best Bets for Knockout Stage (Jan. 23-26) article feature image

Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images. Pictured: Egypt star Mohamed Salah.

The group stage is over and were onto the knockout phase in the Africa Cup of Nations!

It was a wild two weeks of matches that saw one of the favorites and defending champion Algeria bow out of the competition after getting upset by Equatorial Guinea.

Equatorial Guinea (+1400) just upset Algeria in the African Cup of Nations 🤯

— Action Network Soccer (@ActionNetSoccer) January 16, 2022

Now, we head to the business end of the competition and have some fascinating Round of 16 matchups. including Ivory Coast versus Egypt and Nigeria taking on Tunisia.

That said, here's how the bracket sets up:

*(image via

Before we jump into the projections and best bets, let's take a look at where the future odds stand heading in the knockout stage.

AFCON 2022 Odds

*Odds via DraftKings

Ivory Coast+800
Burkina Faso+2000
Cape Verde+8000
Equatorial Guinea+10000

As you can see from the odds, host country Cameroon is now the betting favorite at +450 odds after an impressive group-stage showing along with the fact that its path to the semifinals is relatively easy.

Another interesting note is Egypt, who was one of the favorites coming into the tournament, has now dropped to +1600 after a poor showing against Nigeria in group stage and having a gauntlet to get to the final.

Now, without further ado, let's get into the projections and best bets.

AFCON 2022 Knockout Stage Projected Odds

Note: These are projected based on a 90-minute match and don't take into account the possibility of extra time.

Best Bets

Guinea vs. Gambia

Guinea Odds+115
Gambia Odds+190
Over/Under1.5 (-155 / +125)
Day | TimeMonday | 11 a.m. ET
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Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

Guinea was very impressive and almost won Group B over Senegal, who is one of the tournament favorites.

Although the nation lost to Zimbabwe in their final group-stage match, Guinea won the expected-goals battle in all three games and its pressing was excellent. Per OptaAnalyst, Guinea had 7.9 PPDA (passes per defensive action), which was the third-best mark of anyone in the group stage. That's not really surprising considering they have Liverpool's Naby Kieta in the midfield, and he's an outstanding presser.

On the flip side, Gambia had the highest PPDA rating (20.8) of anybody in the tournament . Additionally, despite winning against Mauritania and Tunisia, Gambia lost the xG metric and failed to create more than one xG in all three games. Their last match against Tunisia was a perfect snapshot of how lucky they've been so far this tournament.

Gambia 1-0 Tunisia

Two teams won an #AFCON2021 group stage match in which they produced under 0.5 xG. Gambia's thriller, and Gabon's 1-0 win over Comoros.

— The Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) January 20, 2022

Gambia does have an outstanding player in Bologna's Musa Barrow, but outside of him only two others at clubs in one of Europe's top-five leagues.

I have Guinea projected at -111, so I like the price on them at +115 to move onto the quarterfinals.

Pick: Guinea ML (+115)

Ivory Coast vs. Egypt

Ivory Coast Odds+135
Egypt Odds+265
Over/Under1.5 (-170 / +135)
Day | TimeWednesday | 11 a.m. ET
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Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

Did you know that coming into the tournament Egypt only had a +0.30 xGDiff in total throught all of the AFCON and World Cup qualifiers?

Well, those type of performances carried over into the Africa Cup of Nations, because even though they have Mohamed Salah, the best player in the world right now, they had a -0.3 xGDiff and only created a total of 2.11 xG goals against Guinea-Bissau and Sudan. The country also were completely played off the pitch by Nigeria in its opening match.

Nigeria 1-0 Egypt: A really strong start to the AFCON for the Nigerians, who dominated the game for long periods.

Six of the eight games at this tournament have finished 1-0….so who will win 1-0 between Sudan & Guinea-Bissau, tonight?!#TeamNigeria | #TeamEgypt |

— The Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) January 11, 2022

In contrast, Ivory Coast had an impressive group stage, winning all its of matches, including a stellar 3-1 victory over Algeria to close out the group.

The Ivory Coast has a ton of talent on its squad, including Ajax striker Sebastian Haller, Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, Burnley forward Maxwel Cornet, AC Milan defensive midfielder Franck Kessié to name a few.

Having that depth of talent is crucial to make it deep in a tournament like this because in the case of Egypt, Salah doesn't have really any talent around him, which allows opponents to isolate him and not touch the ball.

Mohamed Salah's only had 14 touches in the first half – the fewest of any Egypt player to play the whole 45 mins against Nigeria in this #AFCON2021 match…and two of those have been kick offs.

Can they find a way back in to this match?

— The Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) January 11, 2022

So far this tournament, Salah has eight shots and 0.96 xG created in three matches. He hasn't been able to touch the ball much and if this game goes anything like the fixture against Nigeria, where he had the fewest touches of any player on the field in the first half, it's going to be a long night for Egypt.

I have Ivory Coast projected at +101 odds, so I love the price on Les Éléphants at +125 to win in regular time.

Pick: Ivory Coast ML (+135)

Mali vs. Equatorial Guinea

Mali Odds-180
Equatorial Guinea Odds+750
Over/Under2.5 (+160 / -200)
Day | TimeWednesday | 2 p.m. ET
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Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute Soccer odds here.

Maybe the most surprising and impressive longshot to make it out of the group stage was Equatorial Guinea. For those who aren't aware, Equatorial Guinea is a small country on the western coast of Africa, sandwiched between Cameroon and Gabon.

There are only around 1.5 million people living in the tiny nation and this is only the third time in the country's history it has qualified for this competition.

Equatorial Guinea absolutely deserve to be in the knockout stage with the performances they had in one of the tougher groups. The country lost its opening game to the Ivory Coast, 1-0, but held it to just 0.8 xG on 11 shots.

Then, it pulled off a massive upset in a 1-0 victory against defending champion Algeria and capped things off with an impressive 1-0 shutout over Sierra Leone, creating 1.5 xG in the process.

One of the reasons Equatorial Guinea was so impressive was its pressing. Per OptaAnalyst, the nation forced 25 high turnovers — seven of which led to shots — which was the best mark of anyone in the group stage.

Mali got a lucky result in their first match against Tunisia, saving a penalty and having the contest end in controversial fashion.

ARE YOU SERIOUS[[ Never seen anything like this in my life.

— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) January 12, 2022

After that craziness, it went on to draw with Gambia and beat Mauritania fairly handily. However, those teams lost the xG battle in their other two group-stage tilts, so as crazy as it sounds, Equatorial Guinea will be a step up in competition.

I only have Mali projected at -105 odds, so I like Equatorial Guinea's spread of +1 at -130 and will make it my top pick.

Pick: Equatorial Guinea +1 (-130)

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