The opening match of the Africa Cup of Nations sees the host team Ivory Coast in action on Saturday night when they go up against the minnows of Group A in the form of Guinea-Bissau in front of an expectant crowd in Abidjan.
Ivory Coast will be one of the teams who will be expecting to win this competition this year while Guinea-Nissau would just have their eye on making it out of the group stage from where anything will be something of a bonus.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live on BBC Three and the Sky Sports Football channels. The build-up begins at 7.45pm ahead of an 8pm kick off in Abidjan.
The Ivory Coast were one of the better teams in Africa a decade or so ago but they have faded away in recent times and had they not been the host of this tournament, had they qualified for it they would only have been a second seed in a group. They have failed to qualify for the last two World Cups and since they last won this title in 2015 they haven’t reached a semi-final so something needs to give if we are to get a home champion this year.
When the Ivory Coast were at their pomp you would look at their side as a neutral and see how strong they looked both in midfield and in attack but now they don’t really look as daunting. They have players who if they play to their reputation could go well such as Sebastien Haller but there doesn’t look like there is a Didier Drogba or Yaya Toure type in this squad to take the tournament by the scruff of the neck.
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Guinea-Bissau have qualified for the last three Africa Cup of Nations events but they are still looking for their first win in the tournament and if they can get that at some point in this event that will probably constitute a successful showing. We shouldn’t necessarily write them off because they did get a win over Nigeria in the qualifying competition for this which is a decent result and they have started World Cup qualifying positively.
Guinea-Bissau have some bright attacking players so at some point in this competition you would imagine they will have some joy in front of goal but the concern is whether they can keep them out at the other end. They shipped six in a friendly against Mali last week and while you can never take too much from those sorts of games, it is a concern that they were so open in the lead up to the event. If they can just stay close here they might nick something at the death.
I guess we will find out just how good the Ivory Coast are in this match and just how strong their title claims are. Ranking wise Guinea-Bissau are the weakest team they will face in the group so it all gets a bit awkward from here if Ivory Coast don’t win this match. This is a chance for Ivory Coast to put a marker down to the rest with a comfortable win and set themselves up well for a tournament which has been a long time in waiting for them.
It will be interesting to see the approach of Guinea-Bissau in this match. On paper in terms of the seeding this is the hardest match they will face in the group but there is Nigeria around the corner so they need to try and get something out of the game. That makes me think that if Guinea-Bissau come to tango that we’ll see some goals here. Guinea-Bissau just played a friendly with Mali where they lost 6-2 while Ivory Coast took Sierra Leone apart in a friendly. This isn’t a tournament which pays on the over very often but it might just do so here.
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