AFCON 2019 title favourites, Ivory Coast, kicked off their Group D campaign against South Africa at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo at 5:30pm Monday.
Termed the “Group of Death”, the two former African champions will be serving up a mouthwatering clash in the pool, which pits the two against Morocco and Namibia.
Ivory Coast, popularly known as The Elephants, most recently won the tournament in 2015, but since then, their fortunes took a dip.
This is a game which is going to be very close to call — in the sense that the Ivorians have won seven of the last 13 games while the South Africans have won six in the same number of matches.
Prior to the June 24 match, these two sides met six times, in which South Africa, also known as Bafana Bafana, has never lost against The Elephants.
The last time the two teams met was in a friendly match back in 2014 and South Africa won 2-0.
There have been only two goalless matches between the two sides — back in 2002 during the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and in 1994, on their first meeting in the “Simba Cup”.
The result of the last two matches between the continent’s football heavyweights ended in a win for South Africa (2-0), and a draw of 1-1 between the teams.
Ivory Coast: Gbohouo; Coulibaly, Kanon, Traore, Wonlo, Aurier (c), Die, Kessie, Gradel, Seri, Pepe, Kodjia
South Africa: Ronwen Williams, Sfiso Hlanti, Buhle Mkhwanazi, Thulani Hlatshwayo (c), Thami Mkhize, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Dean Furman, Lebo Maboe, Themba Zwane, Percy Tau, Lebo Mothiba.
Players to watch out:
Ivory Coast have a potential match-winner in Nicholas Pepe from Ligue 1 runners-up Lille.
Pepe, 24, was one of Africa’s best players in Europe in the just concluded season, scoring 22 goals and contributing 11 assists in 38 appearances for French Ligue 1 side Lille.
Pepe was named as Africa’s best player in the French top league for the just-concluded season.
If recent form is anything to go by, Pepe would be the hope for Ivory Coast in the AFCON 2019 Group D first match.
South Africa are banking on Percy Tau to rise to the occasion after a successful campaign in the Belgian Second Division.
He is, arguably, Bafana’s best player at the moment, and South African football fans are keen to see what he can deliver against Africa’s best teams such as Ivory Coast.
Tau scored four goals in the AFCON 2019 qualifiers