Cote d’Ivoire beats Guinea Bissau 2-0 in AFCON 2023 opener

Photo of Fofana and his teammates celebrating the first goal in AFCON 2023 for Cote d'Ivoire.

Fofana, who plays in Saudi Arabia, netted a goal in the opening four minutes at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium, located on the northern outskirts of Abidjan, the economic capital of Cote d’Ivoire. His impactful goal, almost decisive in any match, was followed by Jean-Philippe Krasso’s second-half strike, securing three points for the Elephants in the Group A match.

Despite facing one of the tournament’s underdogs, Cote d’Ivoire dominated the game, capitalizing on their home advantage in their pursuit of a third AFCON crown. However, the hosts were disappointed by the sparse attendance, with only 36,858 fans in a 60,000-seat stadium, where tickets were priced between 5,000 and 15,000 CFA francs ($8-25).

The audience present enjoyed an energetic opening ceremony featuring vibrant colors and sounds. The popular Ivorian group, Magic System, performed the tournament’s official song, and speeches were given by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, African football head Patrice Motsepe, and Cote d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara. The President proudly proclaimed his country as “a land of football.”

In their quest to create history, Cote d’Ivoire aims to be the first host nation since 2006, when they lost to Egypt in the final on penalties, to lift the AFCON trophy. The Elephants, featuring the legendary Didier Drogba, were also graced by his presence in Abidjan.

Since Burkina Faso in 1998, the hosts have not experienced defeat in the opening match of the AFCON, and Fofana’s decisive goal suggested that this trend was unlikely to change. The game commenced several minutes later than the scheduled 2000 GMT start due to a series of speeches. Nonetheless, Cote d’Ivoire wasted no time against Guinea-Bissau, who made their fourth AFCON appearance without a tournament win.

Fofana, on the receiving end of a pass from Franck Kessie, his midfield counterpart who also joined Saudi Arabia this season, expertly positioned himself for a powerful strike into the top-right corner. Jean-Louis Gasset, the experienced French coach for Ivory Coast, assembled a team with five players from Europe’s top leagues and three from Saudi Arabia, excluding the absent star striker Sebastien Haller. Red Star Belgrade’s Krasso led the attack.

Despite Guinea-Bissau, ranked 21st in Africa, managing to defeat Nigeria in qualifying, they struggled to generate scoring opportunities and conceded once again just before the hour mark. Krasso, showcasing the depth of Cote d’Ivoire’s attacking prowess, controlled the ball in the box, took a touch, and executed a low volley to secure the victory.

In the first half, Fofana, relentless in the tropical conditions, posed a considerable threat and struck the bar with a right-foot shot from a Kessie cutback after 34 minutes. Group A will be completed by three-time former champions Nigeria, along with Equatorial Guinea, who will face each other at Ebimpe on Sunday. The opening matches in Group B will showcase Egypt against Mozambique and Ghana against Cape Verde.


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