By Nairaland Forum Appearing in their first Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals as a non-host, and doing so as Group E’s lowest-ranked team, Equatorial Guinea arrive here having recently beaten a higher-ranked Tunisia side 1-0 in FIFA World Cup qualifiers. A current five-game unbeaten run (W3, D2) will now give them hope they can extend their unbeaten record across AFCON group campaign openers (W1, D1).
With a playoff spot available for the four best-placed third-ranked teams, ‘National Thunder’ will hope for an early strike, having won the last six matches to see them score the match opener. With five of those games being decided by a single-goal margin (including four 1-0 results), the opening goal could prove critical.
Two-time AFCON champions Ivory Coast are looking to rebuild, after experiencing the heartbreak of failing to qualify for this year’s upcoming World Cup. The ‘Elephants’ should still stamp their authority on proceedings here though, having marched past the group stage in seven of their previous eight AFCON appearances.
The Ivorians generally start well in this competition, avoiding defeat in each of their previous 11 openers to an AFCON finals (W6, D5). Each of those wins came via a single-goal margin, while nine of those 11 produced under 2.5 goals.
Players to watch: Ibán Salvador has been Equatorial Guinea’s last scorer with each of his previous four international goals, including one in the most recent H2H. Meanwhile, Ivory Coast’s Wilfried Zaha has seen each of his five goals in national colours come during wins. At club level, he has scored five goals for Crystal Palace this season, each time giving them a 1-0 lead.
Hot stat: From group stage to finals, Equatorial Guinea have failed to score before half-time in nine of their last ten AFCON matches. Read More
Source:: Nigerian Chatter