Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON)2023 got off to a brilliant start Saturday with an electrifying opening ceremony followed by goals on the side of hosts Ivory Coast that sent fans across the west African nation into frenzied celebrations.
Seko Fofana needed only four minutes to score the first goal of the Africa Cup of Nations for Ivory Coast. The match ended with a 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau in the tournament opener.
Jean-Philippe Krasso wrapped up the win in the second half after going close in the first.
It was a nervy start from Guinea-Bissau, making just its fourth appearance at the biennial tournament, and Fofana capitalized on a poor clearance by eluding two defenders and shooting inside the right post.
Mama Baldé tried responding with an overhead kick at the other end but it was an isolated attack from Guinea-Bissau, which has never won a game at the tournament. The West African nation has finished bottom of its group in each of its previous three appearances.
Two-time champion Ivory Coast was able to maintain possession and calmly set about creating chances through patient buildup play.
Krasso went close with a header, then Fofana struck the crossbar after Ouparine Djoco got his fingertips to the ball. Krasso missed a good chance from Jonathan Bamba’s cross after Bissau-Guinea defender Marcelo Djaló did enough to put him off.
Red Star Belgrade forward Krasso finally scored in the 58th to put the home fans at ease. They responded with “Olé, olé, olé” around the 60,000-capacity Alassane Ouattara Stadium.
But the party had already started much earlier in Abidjan, the country’s biggest city and commercial capital. People were driving around tooting their horns in cars displaying orange, white and green flags.
Many people were already wearing the distinctive orange jersey of the national team, which is affectionately known as “Les Elephants.”
A crowd of people made its way to the stadium, with some dancing and some selling wares to motorists stuck in the heavy traffic. Others simply tooted their horns and waved their flags.
Security is an issue for this edition of the tournament following the deaths of eight people and injuries to 38 in a stadium crush at the last edition in Cameroon.
Patrice Motsepe, the president of the African soccer federation (CAF), said Friday that it had learned from that “absolutely avoidable” accident.
“I’m satisfied that the appropriate steps have been taken to correctly make sure that we totally avoid the really painful experience we had in Cameroon where we lost the lives of some of our people,” said Motsepe, who said there would be 50,000 security personnel and police on duty for the tournament.
Ivory Coast hasn’t hosted the Africa Cup since 1984, when it started by beating Togo 3-0 in the opening match. It won the tournament in 1992 and 2015.
Borussia Dortmund forward Sébastien Haller and Brighton winger Simon Adingra both missed Saturday’s game for Ivory Coast with injuries.
Nigeria will play Equatorial Guinea in the other Group A opening match on Sunday.