Two time champions Ivory Coast will be keen to start off their January 2022 Cameroon Africa of Nations journey on a high note when they take on Equatorial Guinea at the Japoma Stadium on Wednesday.
Having won it in 1992 and 2015, Cote d’Ivoire are clearly one of the strongest sides on the continent and are making their eighth consecutive appearance in the competition this year.
They were however knocked out in the quarterfinals of the last edition (2019) by eventual winners Algeria.
The Elephants are among the favourites in the tournament and will surely fancy their chances from the onset for a third Cup.
Meanwhile, Equatorial Guinea make their return to the continental showdown after a six-year absence.
They last featured in the competition back in 2015 when they finished fourth. They lost to DR Congo on penalties after the third-place playoff ended goalless in normal time.
The Nzalang Nacional are making just their third appearance in the competition and this time around, they will be looking to go a step further than in 2015.
There have been just two meetings between the two sides. Equatorial Guinea are winless in both attempts while Cote d’Ivoire have won once. The other meeting ended in a draw.
Didier Drogba (twice) and Yaya Toure were on the scoresheet for the Ivorians when the two sides last officially met, in the quarterfinals of the tournament back in 2012, the game finishing 3-0.
Ivory Coast’s Eric Bailly came off injured in his last game for Manchester United but is expected to be fit enough to start the match.
Equatorial Guinea have not reported any injury concerns and have a clean suspension slate, with the full squad available for the Japoma bout.
Ivory Coast squad
Goalkeepers: Sylvain Gbohouo (Wolkite Ketema, Ethiopia), Badra Ali Sangare (JDR Stars, South Africa), Abdoul Karim Cisse (Asec Mimosas, Ivory Coast), Ira Eliezer Tape (San Pedro, Ivory Coast).
Defenders: Serge Aurier (Villarreal, Spain), Eric Bailly (Manchester United, England), Willy Boly (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England), Wilfried Kanon (Pyramids, Egypt), Odilon Kossounou (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany), Simon Deli (Adana Demirspor, Turkey), Ghislain Konan (Reims, France).
Midfielders: Habib Maiga (Metz, France), Maxwel Cornet (Burnley, England), Serey Die (Sion, Switzerland), Ibrahim Sangare (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro (Lazio, Italy), Franck Kessie (AC Milan, Italy), Hamed Traore and Jeremie Boga (both Sassuolo, Italy), Max Gradel (Sivasspor, Turkey), Jean Michael Seri (Fulham, England).
Forwards: Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, England), Jean Evrard Kouassi (Trabzonspor, Turkey), Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal, England), Sebastien Haller (Ajax, Netherlands), Christian Kouame (Anderlecht, Belgium), Yohan Boli (Al-Rayyan, Qatar), Karim Konate (Asec Mimosas, Ivory Coast).
Equatorial Guinea squad
Goalkeepers: Jesus Owono (Alaves B, Spain), Manuel Sapunga (Futuro Kings), Aitor Mbela Gil (Somozas, Spain), Mariano Mba (Deportivo Unidad)
Defenders: Carlos Akapo Martinez (Cadiz, Spain), Cosme Anvene (Deportivo Unidad), Miguel Angel Maye (Futuro Kings), Saul Basilio Coco (UD Las Palmas, Spain), Marvin Jose Anieboh (CP Cacereno, Spain), Luis Alberto Meseguer (CD Navalcanero, Spain), Luis Enrique Nsue (Cano Sport), Ruben Belima (Hercules, Spain), Esteban Fernandez Obiang (Antequera, Spain), Basilio Ndong (IK Start, Norway)
Midfielders: Javier Akapo Martinez (Ibiza, Spain), Federico Bikoro (Hercules, Spain), Santiago Bocari (Nantes B, France), Alejandro Alex Balboa (Alaves B, Spain), Dorian Hanza Junior (UP Langreo, Spain), Jose Dicombo (Monza, Italy), Pablo Ganet (Murcia, Spain), Jannick Buyla Sam (Gimnastic de Tarragona, Spain)
Forwards: Luis Miguel Nlavo (SC Braga B, Portugal), Juan Jose Oscar Siafa (Olimpacos Volou, Greece), Iban Salvador Edu (CF Fuenlabrada, Spain), Emilio Nsue Lopez (Unattached), Jose Antonio Miranda (Niki Volou, Greece), Pedro Oba Asu (Futuro Kings)