|By PAUL GOUGH
A star-studded Ivory Coast team are firming to win the 2013 African Cup of Nations ahead of this weekend's quarter-finals.
With record seven-time winners Egypt and perennial contenders Cameroon both failing to qualify for the 16-nation tournament, Ivory Coast kicked off as favourites at $2.80 at Betfair.
However, after topping what was the toughest of the four groups - Group D - in the preliminary rounds against Togo, Tunisia and Algeria, the Elephants have been backed in to little better than even money to win the tournament for only the second time and for the first time since 1992.
Ivory Coast are now the $2.18 tournament favourites at Betfair with Ghana, which opened as second favourites at $7.20, still second elect but now into $5.10.
The two giants of African football remain on target to meet in the final on February 10, with Ivory Coast to first take on Nigeria in the quarter-finals before then facing the winner of the South Africa-Mali quarter-final in the final four.
Ghana, meanwhile, will be the hottest of favourites to beat competition surprise packets Cape Verde Islands in the quarter-final and look to be in the weaker half of the draw, with a likely semi-final against Burkina Faso, who surprisingly finished ahead of Nigeria in Group C.
Ivory Coast and Ghana opened as the only teams under double-figure odds to win the tournament at Betfair and that is still the case, with host nation South Africa now third favourites at $12 - out from $10.50 at the start of the tournament - and Nigeria at $12.50, having started at $10.
|Ivory Coast to win the African Cup of Nations at $2.18 at Betfair
||Mali to win v South Africa in the AFCON quarter-finals at $3.45 at Betfair|
However, South Africa, who was unconvincing in topping a modest Group A following one win and two draws against Cape Verde Islands, Morocco and Angola, face a tough quarter-final in Durban against Mali.
Mali, which finished second in Group B behind Ghana, remain at their opening quote of $16.50 to win the competition but are still the value team.
Mali did finish third in the 2012 tournament and their squad features a host of French-based stars.
And provided they overcome South Africa in Saturday's quarter-final - for which they look great value at odds of $3.45 at Betfair with the home side favourites at $2.42 - they will most likely meet Ivory Coast in the semi-finals.
That would be a repeat of the 2012 semi, which Ivory Coast won 1-0 before going on to lose to Zambia on penalties in the final, while Mali bounced back to beat Ghana in the play-off for third and fourth.
* Note prices subject to change