April 20, 2024

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Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau Kick Off AFCON 2023 in Absorbing Group A Opener

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations gets underway today with a tense match between Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau. The 34th edition of the tournament is regarded as one of the most open in recent memory, with several teams capable of winning the championship on February 11.

The Super Eagles are in Group A with the host nation, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau.

On paper, this group is straightforward because Ivory Coast and Nigeria have better players than the other two nations, so most expect both to easily advance to the knockout stages.

The Elephants are hosting the event for the second time and seeking their third continental championship. They won it last in 2015, at the end of their Golden Generation. They have a young team led by the experienced Max Gradel, who was a member of the title-winning team in 2015. Sebastien Haller, Nicolas Pepe, Ibrahim Snagare, and Franck Kessie, among others, should make qualification easy for the hosts.

Meanwhile, Nigeria has been repeatedly accused of underachieving at the tournament. They are expected to win because they have the reigning African Player of the Year, Victor Osimhen, in their strike force. They are competing in their 20th AFCON and are aiming for a fourth continental title.

Equatorial Guinea finished fourth in 2015 and could pose a challenge to the two favorites. They have talented players from all over Europe.

Guinea-Bissau will compete in their fourth AFCON tournament and will face the hosts in the opening game, which will be difficult. If they both lose to the West African giants, their clash with Equatorial Guinea will be massive.

On Saturday (today), Ivory Coast will face Guinea-Bissau in the tournament’s opening game at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium.

The tournament hosts are heavy favorites to win Group A, while the Djurtus are attempting to advance beyond the group stage for the first time.

The pressure will be on Jean-Louis Gasset’s Elephants when they take to the field on Saturday for the start of AFCON 2023 against Guinea-Bissau.

Despite being guaranteed a place in the finals, the West African team competed in qualifying, finishing second after finishing level with Zambia on 13 points, winning four of their six games (one loss).

Ivory Coast has advanced from the group stage in eight of the previous nine Cup of Nations appearances, and they hope to make it nine in ten with a strong performance against Guinea-Bissau.

Gasset’s team annihilated Sierra Leone in their warm-up game, winning 5-1 over the Leone Stars last weekend, as they impressed with their decisive execution in the final third.

It’s anyone’s guess whether they can carry that form into Saturday’s AFCON opener against Guinea-Bissau, but their goal-scoring form gives the Elephants reason to be optimistic.

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