When Côte d’Ivoire takes on South Africa this afternoon at the Al Salam Stadium in their opening Group D match, the West African nation looks on top based on pundits’ opinion but reality is that both are former champions of the tournament.
The Elephants, who won the tournament more recently are widely considered as one of the tournament favourites, having clinched their second AFCON title in 2015.
One of their star players is Olympique Lyonnais striker Maxwel Cornet, who is confident that his team can go all the way and lift their third trophy this year.
“We have qualified for this 2019 AFCON. We will really go to bring back the cup. It’s normal. We will give everything there,” Cornet in an interview yesterday ahead of the opening cracker.
“It’s for the whole people, a whole nation. Given the disillusionment after the non-qualification for the 2018 World Cup, we are really keen to show the Ivorians that they can all count on us.”
The Ivorien head coach Ibrahim Kamara will also look to Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha.
Meanwhile, South Africa are making their return to the finals after missing the last tournament and they have been crowned AFCON champions once in 1996 when they played host to the rest of the world.
Dean Furman, the South Africa central midfielder, who is on the books of SuperSport United, has explained why Bafana Bafana are not the favourites to win this year’s tournament.
“I don’t think we are favourites. There are certain traditional powerhouses of African football but we are happy with where we are, we know we have quality in this team,” Furman said.
“We are in a strong group involving Morocco and Ivory Coast and not discarding a strong Namibia side.”
Furman is a key player in South Africa head coach Stuart Baxter’s squad, while Brighton and Hove Albion forward Percy Tau is Bafana’s dangerman.
In head-to-head stats, Côte D Ivoire and South Africa have clashed six times.
South Africa are undefeated against one of the continental Giants, having recorded two wins while four games ended in a draw.