AFCON 2023: Cote d’Ivoire’s unbeaten opening match streak on the line against Guinea Bissau


The stage is set for a thrilling opening encounter at the 34th edition of the TotalEnergies CAF African Cup of Nations this Saturday, as hosts Cote d’Ivoire gear up to face Guinea Bissau in what promises to be a historic match. With anticipation building, has highlighted some key facts and figures that add an extra layer of excitement to this much-awaited clash.

This match marks the first-ever meeting between Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Côte d’Ivoire, with their rich footballing heritage, is participating in their 25th edition of this prestigious tournament, trailing only behind Egypt in terms of appearances. The Ivorians, buoyed by their past successes in 1992 and 2015, will be vying for their third trophy.

Côte d’Ivoire is hosting the tournament for the second time, 40 years after their first stint in 1984, which saw them exit in the group stages while Cameroon clinched the title. Interestingly, the trend in recent editions has seen hosts or co-hosts always reaching the knockout stages, barring Gabon in 2017. However, no host team has lifted the trophy since Egypt’s triumph in 2006.

Adding to the intrigue is Côte d’Ivoire’s impressive record in opening matches at the Africa Cup of Nations. They are unbeaten in their last 12 openers (7 wins, 5 draws), with their last defeat in a tournament opener dating back to 1996 against Ghana. This match will also be a milestone for the Ivorians, marking their 100th game in the AFCON, joining Egypt and Ghana in this elite club.

On the other side, Guinea-Bissau, a relatively new entrant to the competition, is making its fourth appearance since debuting in 2017. Their journey so far has been challenging, finishing at the bottom of their group in all previous participations. They hold the unenviable record of playing nine matches in the tournament without a win, only surpassed by Benin and Mozambique.

Guinea-Bissau’s struggle for goals in the tournament has been notable. They haven’t scored in their last seven AFCON matches, a drought lasting over 11 hours. Their last goal came from Piqueti against Cameroon in January 2017. However, they will be buoyed by the form of Zinho Gano and Jorginho, who contributed significantly to their qualification by scoring 55% of their team’s goals.

For Côte d’Ivoire, all eyes will be on Max Gradel. If he plays, Gradel will join the ranks of Ivorian legends like Boubacar Barry, Siaka Tiéné, and Kolo Touré, by making his seventh AFCON appearance. Gradel was a part of the triumphant 2015 squad, adding experience and depth to the team.

As the two teams prepare to lock horns, the match is not just a contest of skills and strategies but also a narrative of histories, records, and personal milestones. It’s a game that encapsulates the spirit of African football, with its blend of passion, talent, and enduring legacies.

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