Many wise owls have been predicting a shock winner of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations with all the traditional CAF powerhouses, save perhaps Tunisia, stationed cheek by jowl in the lower half of the draw.
Every tournament has a ‘group of death’ and it’s Group C in Equatorial Guinea, with Algeria (4/1 to win the tournament) Ghana (9/1), Senegal (12/1) and a rejuvenated South Africa (25/1 despite going unbeaten in qualification) doing battle for two quarter-final berths.
Of the quartet, those lucky enough to proceed are likely to come up against 7/2 title favourites Ivory Coast or Cameroon in the last eight, unless Guinea or Mali can spring a shock in Group D.
With the potential for plenty of tough matches before the business end of the tournament for the aforementioned lower-half sides, there will be punters who like the look of Burkina Faso (18/1), Gabon (25/1) or even Cape Verde in the top half of the draw.
The latter look absurdly long at 33/1 (the same price as hosts who haven’t made it to the finals on footballing merit) having beaten Group B rivals Zambia to top their qualifying section.
Yet, despite what looks an arduous road ahead, Senegal’s qualifying campaign proved they have all that is required to relish and thrive upon their ultra-competitive route to the final and lift their very first Cup of Nations.
Firstly, while their defensive ranks may not include many stellar names (no bad thing for squad harmony), they conceded just once (a 90th-minute sickener in Tunisia) in a deep preliminary section featuring the Eagles of Carthage and seven-times winners Egypt.
That they came so close to eking out a draw in Manatir, alongside away victories to nil against the Pharoes and Botswana, suggests they have the mettle to get what they need from challenging situations.
Not that Senegal are overly reliant upon avoiding concession, with incisive Premier League forwards like Papiss Cisse, Sadio Mane and Mame Biram Diouf promising goals.
Coach Alain Giresse clearly has sufficient confidence in his forwards to leave Demba Ba at home even though the former Newcastle man scored 13 goals in 12 games earlier this season.
Since qualifying concluded, the Lions of Terranga have quelled any misgivings over their ability to cut loose from a disciplined approach with a 5-2 rout of fellow finalists Guinea – another striker, Dame N’Doye of Lokomotiv Moscow impressing as they raced into a 4-0 lead.
However, Ivory Coast conceded 11 times in qualifying, while Ghana shipped seven and ultimately it will be Senegal’s miserly defence that sets them aside from the majority of their most credible rivals.
Cameroon, who also gave up a solitary opposition goal in qualifying are the exception, but their tendency to dissolve into infighting at major tournaments is practically unrivalled in world football.