The blockbuster showdown today in the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 will see Senegal resume their title defence when they take on Cote d’Ivoire at the Charles Konan Banny Stadium.
The winner of this clash between Africa’s football heavyweights will move on to the quarter-final, where they will face either Mali or Burkina Faso, who square off on tomorrow in Korhogo.
It is just over a year since Senegal beat Cote d’Ivoire 1-0 at the CAF African Nations Championship, and they will be looking for a similar performance this time to take them just three wins away from defending their AFCON title.
While surprise packages, Equatorial Guinea and Cape Verde, claimed most of the headlines in the group stages, The Lions of Teranga were superb over their first three matches and emerged as the only team in the competition to win all three group stage matches.
They kicked off their AFCON campaign with a solid 3-0 win in match one against Gambia before outclassing Cameroon 3-1 in the second game and capped off an excellent round-robin performance with a 2-0 victory over Guinea.
Aliou Cisse’s side will now be looking to make it four wins in a row in this competition, which is a record that was last achieved by Algeria in the 2019 edition when they went on to lift the trophy.
Meanwhile, Cote d’Ivoire’s
AFCON has got progressively worse and are only still alive in the competition due to Ghana’s terrible form, which allowed them to clinch the final third-placed team qualification spot.
The Elephants made a bright start to the tournament, as they claimed a 2-0 opening round win over Guinea-Bissau, but they were unable to build on that performance and were beaten in match two by Nigeria.
However, a shocking 4-0 loss in their final group stage match followed and led to the Cote d’Ivoire Football Federation opting to sack Jean-Louis Gasset as manager before the final qualification places were even confirmed.
Nevertheless, they managed to qualify for the round of 16 as the fourth-best third-placed team, and interim coach, Emerse Fae, has been handed the task of keeping The Elephants AFCON title hopes alive.
While all indicators suggest that the hosts may struggle to beat the Teranga Lions, history is in the Cote d’Ivoire’s favour as they have played Senegal twice in this competition and won on both occasions (1965 and 1986).
Marseille’s Pape Gueye had to leave the field of play due to injury in Senegal’s 2-0 win over Guinea, and the midfielder was also not seen in training in the week, which casts doubts over his involvement in this match.
Attacker Abdallah Sima has been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament due to a thigh injury, which is likely means that Strasbourg, striker Habib Diallo, will lead the line, flanked by Sadio Mane and Ismaila Sarr.
With a new coach at the helm, changes are expected for the hosts in this match, but they are likely to remain without Sebastian Haller, who has yet to feature in this competition due to an ankle injury.
Serge Aurier will be one of the players hoping to be restored to the starting 11 after being left as an unused substitute against Equatorial Guinea, while Nicolas Pepe could drop to the bench after a poor showing in the last match, which raised question marks about his fitness level having just returned from injury. — Sportsmole
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