Ivory Coast will open their Group B campaign at the 2017 WAFU Cup of Nations with a match against Benin at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium on Friday evening, kick-off at 18h00 local time.
The Ivorians were forced to scrap for their place in the last eight of the competition, as they needed penalties to overcome Togo after a goalless draw in their knockout round clash on Tuesday. Goalkeeper Jean Malick Ble Zadi proved to be the hero after saving two penalties and scoring one himself to help his side prevail 4-3 in the shootout.
“I’m congratulating my boys for fighting and give a chance for our team to go to the group stage,” Elephants coach Ibrahim Kamara said after the match, while also acknowledging that their main aim at the WAFU competition is prepare a strong side for next year’s 2018 African Nations Championship.
Benin, meanwhile, proved that they are not to be underestimated after downing Cape Verde 2-0 in the teams’ last 16 tie on Tuesday evening. Ibrahim Ogoulola and Agnide Osseni scored second-half goals to see the Squirrels advance.
Coach Oumar Tchomogo will have been delighted with his team’s maturity and composure against the Blue Sharks, but he will know that even further improvement is needed if they are to match Senegal, Ivory Coast and Niger in their tough group.
Ivory Coast and Benin have met in 13 previous matches, according to FIFA statistics. The Elephants have claimed 10 wins – compared to just one for the Squirrels – and outscored their opponents 30 goals to 10 in the process.