The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations gets underway later this January 13, 2024 in Cote D’Ivoire.
Hosts Cote D’Ivoire begin their quest for a third Africa Cup of Nations crown in the opening match of the tournament against Guinea-Bissau.
The Elephants of Cote D’Ivoire are favourites to lead the way in Group A and they must deal with pressure from the huge support from home crowd.
Cote D’Ivoire are favourites against Guinea-Bissau as they start their campaign, with coach Jean-Louis Gasset’s side up against an opponent who have never previously made it out of the group stage.
Even despite booking their ticket automatically by way of hosting the tournament, the Ivorians took part in qualifying and finished second, level on points with Zambia.
Cote D’Ivoire on their part have failed only once to progress from the group stages. In their last warm up match before the AFCON, the Elephants of Cote D’Ivoire thrashed Sierra Leone.
In a blow to the hosts, Borussia Dortmund’s Sebastien Haller will miss the opening match while Simon Adingra is doubtful for the opener. Meanwhile, the likes of Eric Baily, Wilfried Zaha and Nicolas Pepe were left out of the squad.
Guinea-Bissau is expected to enter this match with only defender Nanu possibly being uncertain or questionable due to an undisclosed reason. This might pose a concern for the team, as Nanu’s participation is uncertain which might affect their defensive setup for the upcoming game.
Guinea-Bissau are certainly not tipped to do well, with three draws and six defeats in their previous appearances, but coach Baciro Cande is targeting a shock.
“We know we can create a sensation against the hosts,” he said.
Guinea-Bissau, who are sat outside the world’s top 100 in FIFA’s rankings, are yet to win a game at AFCON ahead of what will be their fourth attempt at the group stages.
A 6#2 friendly defeat to Mali could be a foreboding sign of their campaign to come however they did pull off a surprise win over Nigeria in qualification.
Head to head, history and results
The teams have only met once before, when Ivory Coast produced a 4-1 win in a 2001 WAFU Nations Cup tie.
Players to watch
Seko Fofana (Cote D’Ivoire)
Seko Fofana is known for his dynamic style, typically showcases strong technical abilities, impressive dribbling skills, and a knack for controlling the midfield. He’s versatile, often contributing defensively while also being influential in attacking plays; with the experience of playing across Europe alongside world-class players, he will be very vital for the host nation’s success in this edition of AFCON.
Mama Balde (Guinea-Bissau)
Mama Balde is a versatile player for the Guinea-Bissau national team. He primarily plays as a forward or winger, known for his speed, agility, and ability to take on defenders. Balde possesses good ball control, a powerful shot, and contributes to offensive plays with his creativity. His athleticism and skill set make him an impactful player on the pitch, this will be his third appearance in AFCON.
Ivory Coast possible lineup (4-3-3)
Fofana; Konan, Ndicka, Diomande, Singo; Sangare, Kessie, Seko Fofana; Bamba, Boga, Krasso
Guinea-Bissau possible lineup (3-5-2)
Mendes; Djalo, Sori Mane, Djalo; Carlos Mane, Semedo, Cassama, Rodrigues, Quizera; Gano, Mama Balde
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