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AFCON: Ivory Coast faces Nigeria in what will be a show of might on the African football stage. Who will win tonight?
sokapro-AFCON: Ivory Coast faces Nigeria in what will be a show of might on the African football stage. Who will win tonight?

Ivory Coast, hosts of the Africa Cup of Nations, will try to build on their opening-day triumph and go to the knockout stages when they face Nigeria tonight at Ebimpe's Olympic Stadium.

Following a 1-1 opening-day draw against Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria will enter the game hoping to recover from their poor start and get their quest for continental glory back on track. Ivory Coast started the 34th Africa Cup of Nations like they had anticipated, with a straightforward 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau last Saturday. Al Nasr's Seko Fofana gave the hosts a dream start, curling home the goal inside the first four minutes, before Jean-Philippe Krasso sealed the victory in the 58th minute. Jean-Louis Gasset's team has now gone seven games without defeat in all competitions, including four wins in a row since a 1-1 friendly tie with South Africa back in October. Les Elephants have also won two World Cup qualifying games, defeating Seychelles 9-0 on November 17 and Gambia 2-0 in Dar es Salaam, continuing their impressive record.

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Firing on all cylinders and with the support of their home fans, Ivory Coast now seeks consecutive wins in their first two AFCON finals games for the first time since 2013, when they defeated Togo and Tunisia before drawing 2-2 with Algeria. Nigeria won the title in 2013 when they placed second in Group C and advanced to the final, where they defeated Burkina Faso 1-0 at the First National Bank Stadium. The Super Eagles enter Thursday's match under increased strain after being denied a winning start to the continental extravaganza with a 1-1 draw against Equatorial Guinea on Saturday. Victor Osimhen restored parity less than two minutes after Iban Salvador scored against the run of play to put the Nzalang Nacional ahead, but the Super Eagles wasted other clear-cut chances. This was the latest in a string of poor performances under Portuguese head coach Jose Peseiro, as Nigeria has now gone four consecutive games without a win in all competitions, losing once and drawing three times since October's 3-2 friendly success over Mozambique.

The three-time African champions failed to win their two World Cup qualifiers in November, being held to a draw by Lesotho and Zimbabwe, ranked 148th and 124th in the FIFA World Rankings, respectively. While Nigeria needs all three points to avoid their first group-stage exit since 1982, they will have to be at their best on Wednesday, as the AFCON hosts have gone unbeaten in 37 of their last 38 group-stage games and are currently on a 17-match streak without defeat in the group stages dating back to 2012. The West African heavyweights will be inspired by their previous AFCON clash with Ivory Coast when they defeated Les Elephants 2-1 in the quarter-finals on their way to winning the trophy in South Africa in 2013.

(Image: Sporting News)