Ivory Coast and Togo begin their quest for Africa Cup of Nations glory when they meet each other in the first round of fixtures in Group C on Monday afternoon.
Group C is one of the toughest in the competition with the two sides making up the group with Morocco and DR Congo.
The two teams
Ivory Coast have a long history as one of the continent’s elite teams, helped largely in recent years by the goals of Chelsea legend Didier Drogba. The Elephants have competed in the Africa Cup of Nations 21 times since 1965 but have only won the competition twice, in 1992 and 2015.
Managed by former Nice goalkeeper Michel Dussuyer, Ivory Coast are currently ranked 34th in FIFA’s World Rankings, although were as high as twelfth in May 2013 following their last African success. The Elephants will be captained by FC Basel midfielder Serey Die for the competition, in place of the injured former Arsenal forward Gervinho.
The Elephants’ squad is blessed with some of the very best African talent. Defenders Serge Aurier and Eric Bailly ply their trades for Paris Saint Germain and Manchester United respectively, while forwards Salomon Kalou and Wilfried Bony, and defender Lamine Kone are well known among English football fans. Winger Wilfried Zaha recently switched allegiance from England, who he appeared for twice in friendlies, and takes a place in the squad after scoring and assisting in the two warm-up friendlies against Sweden and Uganda.
Meanwhile, Togo are mere minnows in comparison to Monday’s opponents. They have participated in the competition just seven times and are still yet to claim the biggest prize in African football. Although their biggest feat on the international stage is did sensationally qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. The Sparrow Hawks’ best performance at an AFCON tournament was reaching the quarter-final in 2013, the same year that Ivory Coast went on to win the competition for the second time in their history.
Former Cambridge United manager Claude Le Roy oversees Togo, while captain Emmanuel Adebayor is well renowned across international football, having featured for the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid and more recently Crystal Palace. The infamous forward is currently without a club having failed to impress at Selhurst Park, scoring just once after signing in January.
A player to look out for in the Togo squad is Fulham’s Floyd Ayite who has enjoyed a good season in the EFL Championship, scoring four times in 16 appearances for the former Premier League outfit.
Ivory Coast have defeated Sweden and Uganda in their last two games, but drew 0-0 in each of the three games before, against Zimbabwe, France and Morocco respectively.
Meanwhile, Togo’s last five games includes victories against Djibouti, Uganda and Mozambique, a 2-2 draw against Comoros and a 2-1 defeat to Morocco in their latest fixture.