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HomeNewsIvory Coast-Guinea-Bissau: The “Elephants” want to get off to a good start

Ivory Coast-Guinea-Bissau: The “Elephants” want to get off to a good start

To start their home tournament well, the “Elephants” of Côte d’Ivoire must not stumble against Guinea Bissau, who have never won a match in the African Cup, Saturday (9:00 p.m.) in Abidjan for the match opening of the 34th CAN.

We are finalizing the final preparations for the 34th edition, the teams have arrived, Gambia after a big scare on the plane, Ghana or Burkina Faso descending from theirs in traditional outfits.

Côte d’Ivoire gets the ball rolling, with the ambition of honoring its status as favorite to try to win a third star, after the victories of 1992 and 2015, and to break the curse of the organizer, who did not most won the CAN since Egypt in Cairo in 2006. It was in front of Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast in the final (0-0, 4 tab to 2).

The modest “Djurtus” (the Lycaons) of Guinea-Bissau do not seem capable of spoiling the party, but the Elephants must bear the pressure.

In 1984, the only other time Côte d’Ivoire organized the CAN, the tournament turned into a fiasco with an elimination in the first round.

“A CAN at home means a lot, we are all aware of what awaits us, we have worked hard,” promises one of the stars of the team, midfielder Franck Kessié.

“I would like to tell the Ivorian supporters that we are all fighting for the same flag, we must be united. Let them do their best to support us, we for our part will draw on our last resources to give the best and make them happy,” he added at a press conference.

“We will have to experience the event,” adds coach Jean-Louis Gasset, who discovered the CAN at 70 years old. “My job is to transform this pressure into something positive, to give strength and confidence to my players. It must not inhibit us.”

Time for the party

On the organizational side, everything is falling into place. Jean-Louis Gasset’s first press conference began a good half hour late due to technical problems in the amphitheater of the Palais de la culture in Abidjan, adorned with green, white and orange seats, in the colors of the national flag, located on the edge of the Ebrié lagoon.

CAN – Ivory Coast-Guinea-Bissau: The "Elephants" want to get off to a good start

Children play football in Abidjan on January 12, 2024 on the eve of the opening match of the 34th CAN / FRANCK FIFE / AFP

But the government has put in place the means to ensure the success of the tournament, investing 1.5 billion dollars in the competition.

In addition to the six stadiums built or renovated, bridges, roads, hotels and CAN cities to house the teams have emerged in recent years. With a clear boost at the end of 2023.

Robert Beugré Mambé, the new head of government appointed in October – who also inherited the Sports portfolio -, assured that Côte d’Ivoire was ready at all levels: “Sports infrastructure, reception arrangements, transport and mobility.

The authorities definitely want to turn the page on the fiasco of September 12 when the Ivory Coast-Mali friendly match was interrupted due to the pitch being soaked by a storm, at the Ebimpé stadium in the suburbs of Abidjan.

CAN – Ivory Coast-Guinea-Bissau: The "Elephants" want to get off to a good start

2024 African Cup of Nations: match schedule / Vincent LEFAI, Sophie RAMIS, Valentina BRESCHI / AFP

Some 20,000 young volunteers, 17,000 members of the police and 2,500 stewards will be mobilized for this month of competition, during which the organizers expect up to 1.5 million visitors, notably from qualified neighboring countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso. , Guinea and Ghana.

Everything is in place for the celebration of African football.