Group D in African Cup of Nations started yesterday with a match between Morocco and Namibia, which Morocco ended up winning with last minute goal. Today the other two teams in this group start their journey in the tournament.
Ivory Coast comes into this game as a favorite and when you look at their team it really isn’t a wonder. Multiple players on Ivory Coast’s team have made a breakthrough this season or couple seasons earlier and are playing in biggest leagues in Europe. Most recent breakthrough has been Nicolas Pepe. 24-year-old attacking player had phenomenal season in French Ligue 1 with Lille. Pepe scored 22 goals in the league as Lille finished 2nd in Ligue 1 right behind PSG. For example FC Barcelona has shown interest in signing Pepe.
Other star players on Ivory Coast team are midfielders Max Gradel (Toulouse, 11 goals), Jean Seri (Fulham) and Franck Kessie (AC Milan), defender Serge Aurier (Tottenham) and attacking players Wilfried Bony (Al Arabi), Maxwel Cornet (Lyon), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, 10 goals) and Jonathan Kodjia (Aston Villa).
Ivory Cost has played three games this month and won two of them. They beat Comoros 3-1 and Zambia 4-1, but ended up losing to Uganda 0-1 between those games. Before losing to Uganda Ivory Coast went 10 games without losing. Ivory Coast has used couple of different formations in their past games but 4-3-3 has been used the most and it suits the team best since players like Zaha and Pepe are used to play on wing. Also their striker has been changing in every game. Against Zambia they even used Seri as a striker, even though he is more of a midfielder and has played more defensive in the past. All in all Ivory Coast has a deep squad and players can rotate in multiple different positions. Expect to see Pepe start in the attack. Zaha plays the same position as Pepe, but could maybe be used on the other wing too.
South Africa has played 4 games this month. They have won two games, lost one and had one draw. Even though South Africa won two games, they came after a struggle. They beat Malawi 1-0 and Uganda 1-2, both on penalties in cup competition. They also went on penalties against Botswana but ended up losing 2-3. Their latest game against Ghana ended in a scoreless draw. Unlike Ivory Coast’s team, South Africa’s team consists mostly of their national league players.
South Africa struggles in scoring but are doing great defensively. In their past 8 games South Africa has scored 7 goals in regular time, while giving away 6. Ivory Coast on the other hand is scoring goals but are also keeping their own goal clean. In past 5 games (all played within 3 months) they have scored 11 goals and given away only 3.
Without any surprises Morocco and Ivory Coast should be going through from the group stage. Ivory Coast has a better material and they surely don’t want to leave their faith in Morocco’s hands by losing now. Ivory Coast player’s experience from big leagues and tough games help a lot and they should have no problem beating South Africa today.
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