|By PAUL GOUGH
A star-studded Ivory Coast team are set to start the 2013 edition of the African Cup of Nations as hot favourites when the tournament gets underway in South Africa on Saturday.
With record seven-time winners Egypt and perennial contenders Cameroon both failing to qualify for the 16-nation tournament, punters expect the Ivory Coast to make amends for their shock loss to Zambia in the 2012 final on penalties.
Ivory Coast are the early $2.80 tournament favourites at Betfair and are dominating betting to such an extent that nearly half of all money wagered on the tournament has been placed on the Elephants.
Ghana are the only other team under double-figure odds in tournament betting at $7.20, followed by Nigeria at $10, hosts South Africa at $10.50 Morocco at $13.50, Algeria at $16 and reigning champions Zambia and last year's third placegetters Mali both at $16.50.
Ethiopia are the $200 rank outsiders.
But while Ivory Coast have only ever won the tournament on one occasion [in 1992], a look at the respective squads of the 16 competing nations shows why they are clear favourites to make amends for their shock loss in the 2012 final.
|Ivory Coast to win the African Cup of Nations at $2.80 at Betfair
||Morocco to win Group A at the African Cup of Nations at $3.25 at Betfair|
Ivory Coast's squad is full of players plying their trade in either the English Premier League or French Ligue 1, including Manchester City stars Kolo and Yaya Toure, Wigan striker Arouna Kone, Arsenal's Gervinho and Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote.
And throw in the experience of former Chelsea players Salomon Kalou - now with French club Lille - and the country's greatest ever player Didier Drogba and it is pretty clear why the Elephants will start short-priced favourites to win the title.
Ghana are the obvious dangers, while the value team is Mali, whose squad features a host of French based stars.
Hosts South Africa - having also performed poorly on home soil at the 2010 World Cup - are under the odds considering they have failed to score in five of their past eight warm-up games for the tournament.
As far as group betting goes in Group A, South Africa are the $1.98 favourites to win the group ahead of Morocco [great value at $3.25], Angola at $7 and Cape Verde Islands at $10.50, with the top two to reach the knockout stages.
In Group C, Africa's biggest nation Nigeria are the $2.02 favourites at Betfair to top the group ahead of defending champions Zambia at $2.60, Burkina Faso at $6 and Ethiopia paying $18.
In Group D, Ivory Coast are the clear $1.49 favourites to win the group ahead of Tunisia and Algeria at $6 and Togo at $16.
* Note prices subject to change