In what is the opening game of Group C, Ivory Coast will begin the defence of their title against a Togo side who last won a major tournament match at the 2013 edition in South Africa where they beat Algeria 2-0.
These sides last met in 2013, with Ivory Coast prevailing 2-1. An early goal from Yaya Toure put his side in front but an equaliser from Jonathan Ayite put the sides level shortly before half-time. The Ivorians won that game with a late goal from Gervinho. Togo will be looking for revenge when the sides meet again.
Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha is set to make his competitive debut after switching allegiance from playing for England. He has impressed in the warm-up matches so far with an assist and a goal to his name. What could he be capable of on the African stage?
Togo will be captained by free agent Emmanuel Adebayor who I likened to Hal Robson-Kanu of Wales as he’s in a similar circumstance. (See my Group C preview).
Togo manager Claude LeRoy is making a ninth appearance at the tournament (more appearances than any other manager). He has won the tournament on one occasion, which was in 1988 with Cameroon. Can he do it again with Togo? The Sparrow Hawks have never won this tournament but they’ll be looking to go one (or two) better than their best, which was reaching the quarter-finals just four years ago.
Ivory Coast are unbeaten in their three other matches against Togo, having drawn against them in 2000 (1-1), and 2002 (0-0) but beaten them 3-3 in 1984.
Ivory Coast manager Michel Dussuyer said that the main objective is to successfully defend the title which was won just a couple of years ago but recognises that doing what Egypt did in 2008 and 2010 will be difficult as there are some great teams in Gabon.
Emmanuel Adebayor concedes that his side aren’t the strongest on paper but suggests that his side will play to their full potential when he spoke about their commitment.
Thoughts ahead of the game
If I know anything from African football, it’s that it’s full of upsets. Will there be an upset this time round? Its unlikely, but you never know what may happen.
The last time a reigning champion failed to make it past the group stage was back in 2013 when Zambia did just that. Ivory Coast will not want to add to that.
If I was a betting man, I’d back an Ivory Coast win but they’re up against a side that includes Adebayor, who is ready to prove he still has something to offer potential suitors. I’m not saying he [Adebayor] will replicate Robson-Kanu’s form, or will he?