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AFCON 2023 Round of 16 Preview: Ivory Coast vs Senegal

2023 Africa Cup of Nations hosts Ivory Coast appeared set for a premature elimination but the Elephants received a lifeline thanks to results elsewhere. Now the hosts are in the Round of 16 where they must increase their level against defending champions Senegal in Monday’s second match, a duel that was not anticipated at this stage due to high expectations for both teams. Read more on an enticing match in our preview below:

Ivory Coast vs Senegal- 20:00 GMT

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast midfielder Seko Fofana is putting in a heroic effort despite the struggles that Les Éléphants are enduring

The hosts left their supporters highly devastated with a shocking 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea in their final Group A clash but that is all in the past now. Head coach Jean-Louis Gasset was sacked and now in steps interim coach Emerse Faé, a former national team midfielder who knows the team well from his time as an assistant. Faé announced that his team is confident and upbeat, determined to prove that they will be a nightmare opponent for the Senegalese.

The most disturbing aspect of the defeat to Equatorial Guinea was a complete meltdown by the defense. Evan Ndicka has not lived up to high expectations but is the most talented central defender and will likely partner with Ousmane Diomandé or perhaps Odilon Kossounou. Serge Aurier is likely set for a return at the right back position and Ghislain Konan is the preferred left back in front of goalkeeper Yahia Fofana.

Seko Fofana will be the midfield dynamo and Franck Kessié is the other guaranteed option. It remains to be seen if Faé will utilize a new formation because the three-man midfield appeared disorganized in the group stage, which may necessitate a more creative replacement for Ibrahim Sangaré that could see Jérémie Boga or veteran Max Gradel brought in. Jonathan Bamba could line up on the left wing with Boga or Oumar Diakité on the right and Jean-Philippe Krasso at the striker position. Simon Adingra could also be involved from the start after returning from injury against Equatorial Guinea and there remains the mystery of striker Sébastien Haller who is back in training and should be involved in some way on Monday.

Senegal

Pape Matar Sarr is fully recovered from an injury suffered with club Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month and joins fellow starlet Lamine Camara to make a dynamic central midfield duo

It is the opposite situation in the Senegalese camp where it is business as usual for the Lions of Teranga, who won all three Group C matches with eight goals scored and only one conceded. Now for head coach Aliou Cissé the goal is to maintain focus and that should be no problem for a group that continues to display good chemistry. Cissé remarked that his team should pay no attention to the poor results from Ivory Coast in the group stage and that they will face a difficult opponent.

The defense is well established at this point for Cissé. Goalkeeper Édouard Mendy is in good form and captain Kalidou Koulibaly anchors the defense in the center. Krépin Diatta appears to be a success at the right back position after moving there from his usual position further up in the midfield and Ismail Jakobs is impressive on the left flank. The only question is who will partner Koulibaly in the center with a different partner in each group stage match. Recovered from an injury suffered in the opening match against The Gambia, Moussa Niakhaté appears to be the favorite. Cissé could use a three-man defensive line with Jakobs and Diatta pushed up as wingbacks, which would likely see Abdou Diallo implemented as the third central defender.

Pape Gueye will not play due to injury after a strong group stage but there is no shortage of options. Young talents Lamine Camara and Pape Matar Sarr are creative players who should play from the start and offer intelligent runs forward to aid the attack. Veteran defensive midfielder Nampalys Mendy is a favorite of Cissé and is likely to play behind Sarr and Camara. Star Sadio Mané will play as a forward on the left wing and Ismaïla Sarr is established on the right wing. Habib Diallo is the likely candidate to begin as the striker at the tip of the formation.

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