Ivory Coast AFCON 2023 Preview and Predicted XI

Our Ivory Coast AFCON 2023 preview and predicted XI explores why the Elephants are considered one of the favourites, as they end a 40-year wait to host AFCON action.

How did Ivory Coast qualify for AFCON?

The Ivory Coast head into their ninth consecutive AFCON finals this coming January, having qualified automatically as hosts.

Strangely though, the Ivorians still participated in the qualifiers. In a group with Comoros, Lesotho and Zambia, Jean-Louis Gasset’s side predictably won four of six matches and lost just once.

A generally solid performance throughout qualifying was overshadowed by two shock results. A 0-0 draw in Comoros and a 3-0 loss away against Zambia were unwanted blemishes leading up to the AFCON finals.

Ivory coast WC qualifiers
Photo by Icon sport

Ivory Coast AFCON 2023 preview

Who will Ivory Coast play at AFCON 2023?

Ivory Coast were drawn in AFCON Group A alongside three-time winners Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea.

Guinea-Bissau

First up for the Elephants will be a contest against Guinea-Bissau in the AFCON 2023 opener. Ivory Coast head into this clash as favourites as the host nation sit 58 places above Guinea-Bissau in the FIFA rankings.

Nigeria

Perhaps Ivory Coast’s toughest test will come from 2013 AFCON champions Nigeria. The Super Eagles stormed through AFCON qualifying as top scorers and won five of their six matches.

However, the Elephants have a strong recent record against their Group A opponents, winning four of six head-to-head meetings.

Victor Osimhen of Nigeria celebrates
Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen is fancied to give the Ivory Coast nightmares – Photo by Icon sport

Equatorial Guinea

Lastly, Ivory Coast will take on an Equatorial Guinea side that was full of surprises in AFCON qualifying. The Central African nation lost just one match in six qualifiers and defeated overwhelming matchday favourites Tunisia in Group J.

Yet, Ivory Coast have never lost to Equatorial Guinea – who are ranked 91st in the official FIFA standings.

How far will Ivory Coast go?

Ultimately, Ivory Coast will be expected to progress from Group A comfortably. Gasset’s men have a home advantage that is likely to work in their favour, especially in potentially tough matches against the likes of Nigeria.

But there is an added pressure on the Elephants to perform. In the last three AFCON competitions, the West African nation has not progressed further than the quarter-final stage.

Generally, Ivory Coast are a tough-to-beat side and they head into the competition unbeaten in seven of their last eight matches. Due to this and their home edge, we are tipping the Ivory Coast to reach the semi-final stages at a minimum.

Ivory Coast AFCON outrights

Ivory Coast – Predicted AFCON 2023 XI

Goalkeeper

Firstly, the goalkeeper's starting spot is up for grabs as Yahia Fofana and Badra Ali Sangaré are likely to battle for the number one shirt.

However, it appears that Gasset will go with Fofana as his first choice after the 23-year-old started Ivory Coast’s last five matches. Therefore, veteran Sangaré and Charles Folly Ayayi are likely to provide backup to Fofana.

Defence

Captain Serge Aurier is almost guaranteed a place in Ivory Coast’s starting XI in the upcoming AFCON. The Nottingham Forest defender is one of the most capped players representing the nation with 87 appearances.

A natural partner to Aurier is Forest teammate Willy Boly, while Roma’s Evan Ndicka should complete the central back three. In the wingback positions, Gasset has opted for a more attacking presence recently.

Therefore, Brighton’s Simon Adingra could start on the left, while Ghislain Konan has often been preferred in the right-sided role.

Midfield

Midfield is currently Gasset’s most settled position across the pitch. In recent matches, the Ivory Coast boss has relied on the experience of Franck Kessié in holding midfield.

Further up the pitch, Ibrahim Sangaré and Seko Fofana have been preferred. With over 100 international caps between them, Gasset will most likely trust his reliable central midfield trio to provide stability and work rate at the heart of the team.

Attack

Despite chopping and changing in attacking recently, Gasset has regularly stuck with Sebastian Haller as the lone striker in his tactical set-up. Even though the Borussia Dortmund man has scored just five goals in 17 international appearances, his hold-up play will bring in the wing-backs and further forward midfield players into games.

Galatasaray’s Wilfried Zaha will likely provide attacking support for Haller in a withdrawn role or as a wide operator.

Zaha provides the dribbling ability and creativity to complement Haller’s target-man play. However, the 31-year-old’s inclusion will depend on whether he can retain his fitness levels before and during the AFCON finals.

See also: Who the Ivory Coast could face in the round of 16


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Alex Waite

Alex is a freelance sports writer with experience writing digital news, blogs, features, exlcusive interviews and SEO. He has a keen interest and knowledge of UK and European football, ATP and WTA tennis, cricket and boxing.