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AFCON 2023 kicks off tonight: Cote d'Ivoire wary of potential Guinea Bissau 'trap' in opener - preview

By primenewsghana
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Host nation Cote d'Ivoire will be on high alert for a potential giant-killing when they face Guinea-Bissau in today's TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2023 curtain-raiser.

The Elephants are heavy favourites for the Group A clash against a Djurtus side never to have won an Afcon game in three previous tournaments.

But coach Jean-Louis Gasset is wary of complacency against opponents with nothing to lose in front of 60,000 fans in Abidjan.

"We cannot underestimate Guinea-Bissau," said Gasset. "In these type of opening games, there is always a risk the underdog is fired up to cause an upset."

Cote d'Ivoire are hoping to emulate the class of 1984 by launching their campaign with a big win as hosts.

That victorious side 39 years ago thrashed Togo 3-0 in Abidjan in the tournament's very first match.

But Bissau will take inspiration from holding Gabon to a 1-1 draw in the 2017 opener and are targeting a famous first Afcon victory.

"We know we can create a sensation against the hosts," insisted Bissau coach Baciro Cande.

The Elephants can call on an array of Europe-based stars like Sebastian Haller, Eric Bailly and Franck Kessie as they eye glory on home soil.

With a squad packed with quality, the Elephants are justified favourites if they can handle the weight of expectation in front of a packed stadium.

But opening games can prove unpredictable and cagey - so Cote d'Ivoire must avoid falling into a Bissau trap that could derail their TotalEnergies CAF campaign.


Facts & figures 

●       This will be the first encounter between Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations.

●       Côte d’Ivoire are taking part in their 25th CAF Africa Cup of Nations; only Egypt have made more appearances in the continent’s premier competition (26). They will be attempting to win the trophy for the third time, after 1992 and 2015.

●       Côte d’Ivoire are hosting the CAF Africa Cup of Nations for the second time, 40 years after it was initially held in the country, in 1984. Cameroon won the title whilst Côte d’Ivoire were knocked out in the group stages.

●       The hosts/co-hosts of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations have systematically reached the knockout stages of the tournament in all bar one of the last 14 editions – the exception was Gabon in 2017. However, no host has won the AFCON since Egypt in 2006.

●       Côte d’Ivoire are unbeaten in their last 12 opening matches at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations (W7 D5) – the last time they lost their first match in an edition of the tournament was in 1996 (0-2 v Ghana). Their opening match will be their 100th in the AFCON, becoming the third team to reach that tally after Egypt and Ghana.

●       This is Guinea-Bissau’s fourth Africa Cup of Nations appearance after making their debut in the competition only six years ago in 2017 – they have finished bottom of their group in each of their three previous participations, with a total of three draws and six defeats.

●       Only Benin (14) and Mozambique (12) have played more matches than Guinea-Bissau (9) at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations without ever winning one.

●       Guinea-Bissau have failed to score in their last seven matches at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, a record for any team in the history of the competition. In total, it’s been over 11 hours since they last found the net (707 minutes), a goal by Piqueti against Cameroon on 18 January 2017.

●       If Max Gradel plays, this will be his seventh CAF Africa Cup of Nations, equaling Boubacar Barry, Siaka Tiéné and Kolo Touré as the Ivorians with most AFCON appearances. He was part of the winning squad in 2015.

●       The duo of Zinho Gano and Jorginho scored 55% of Guinea-Bissau’s goals in the qualifiers for the 2023 CAF Africa Cup of Nations (3 goals each, out of a total of 11 team goals).