Ivory Coast and Togo will measure strengths on Tuesday at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, during the opening match of Group D of the Africa Cup of Nations 2013, kick-off at 5pm CAT (SA, GMT+2).
The Elephants qualified for the South African tournament after disposing of the Lions of Senegal during the final round of qualifiers and now hope to erase the painful memories of their lost finals of 2006 and 2012, by winning back a title that has escaped them for twenty years.
In order to achieve this, however, they must start off well against Togo.
“The match against Togo is a very important match to us. So we have to win it, if we want to have a successful AFCON,” admitted Ivoirian striker Arouna Koné, who assured that Ivory Coast are not allowing themselves to become intoxicated by their status as clear favourites to win the competition.
“We respect everybody. We have six matches to win in order to win the Afcon. We are going to find the means to win these matches,” he added.
The Sparrowhawks are participating in their eighth Africa Cup of Nations finals in South Africa, their first since the Cabinda drama that saw their bus attacked during the Angolan AFCON in 2010.
Considered the weakest team of Group D behind Ivory Coast, Algeria and Tunisia, Togo have made it clear that they will also provide a challenge in South Africa.
“We know why we are here, we are not here by chance, we are not here for a holiday,” warned French-Togolese midfielder Alaixys Romao on Sunday, following their morning training session.
Led by Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor, Didier Six’s men should be trying to win at least a point from a draw against the favourites of the group, in order to preserve their chances of qualification for the next round.
But in five clashes with the Elephants the Sparrowhawks have never won, although their last two reunions in the Africa Cup ended in draws (in 2000 and 2002).