Hosts Ivory Coast began their campaign a the 2023 AFCON on a victorious note Saturday night, beating Guinea Bissau 2-0 to pocket the three points at stake. The Elephants shot into the lead as early as the fourth minute thanks to Seko Fofana after enjoying a timely assist from Kessie.
The game which was watched by creme dela creme of African football including past players who can be seen sitted strategically was savouring the action on the pitch, saw the first 45 minute end with the Ivorians still holding tenaciously to their lone goal lead.
The second 45 minutes however saw the Ivorians increase the tally with jean Krasso scoring in the 58th minute. The remaining part of the game saw the Djurtus of Guinea Bissau double efforts at all fronts with intent to turning the table to no avails. The Ivorians will take on Super Eagles on Nigeria in their second match while Equatorial Guinea will face Guinea Bissau.
The 2023 Afcon finals have been pushed back by six months into early 2024 to avoid the rainy season in West Africa, but the delay helped Ivory Coast finalise their preparations, with the total cost of hosting more than $1bn.
The Elephants, looking for their third continental triumph after wins in 1992 and 2015, had to begin their bid for glory without first-choice striker Sebastien Haller because of injury.
But midfielder Fofana broke the deadlock early on after being fed by Franck Kessie, skipping past a couple of defenders and sending his powerful right-footed strike inside the right-hand upright.
Mama Balde spurned Guinea-Bissau’s best chance in the first half, scuffing his effort when played into the box, and only a smart save by Djoco kept the score at 1-0 after the impressive Fofana latched on to a cut-back from the right.
Krasso doubled the lead after showing great skill to juggle the ball and then swivelling and hooking in a left-footed shot from eight yards out in the 58th minute.
Substitute Franculino fired straight at Ivorian keeper Yahia Fofana in the final 20 minutes but the Djurtus, who have qualified for a fourth consecutive Afcon, could not score and are still awaiting their first win at the finals.
Nigeria face Equatorial Guinea at 14:00 GMT on Sunday in the second Group A match, while 2021 runners-up Egypt and four-time champions Ghana will also be in action later in the day as Group B commences.