Seko Fofana’s stunning early goal set host Côte d’Ivoire on the way to a 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau before a euphoric crowd as the Africa Cup of Nations kicked off on Saturday, January 13.

Saudi-based Fofana scored within four minutes at the Ebimpé Olympic Stadium, on the northern outskirts of Côte d’Ivoire’s economic capital Abidjan.

It was a goal worthy of winning almost any game but it was followed by Jean-Philippe Krasso’s second-half strike as the Elephants claimed all three points in the Group A encounter.

They were by far the better team, albeit against one of the tournament’s minnows, as they look to make the most of home advantage to win a third AFCON crown.

“We have been waiting for this moment for a very long time. We didn’t fall into any trap, we won the game, and even if not everything was perfect we are very pleased,” said Fofana, who was named the man of the match. “We will keep working humbly and try to correct the little errors we made, but I thought we played well. “We are very pleased to have given everyone who came here something to shout about, as well as everyone who watched us on television.”

One source of disappointment for the hosts is that just 36,858 fans attended the game inside a 60,000-seat stadium, with tickets being sold for between 5,000 and 15,000 CFA francs (€8-23). “From what I could see the stadium looked full. We had great support,” insisted Fofana.

Those fans who were there were treated to a raucous opening ceremony, a riot of color and noise which featured a rendition of the tournament’s official song by the popular Ivorian group Magic System.

There were also speeches by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, African football boss Patrice Motsepe, and Côte d’Ivoire’s veteran President Alassane Ouattara, who proudly declared his country “a land of football.”

They are aiming to become the first host nation to lift the trophy since Egypt beat Côte d’Ivoire on penalties in the final in 2006. That Elephants team featured the legendary Didier Drogba, who was also in attendance in Abidjan.

The hosts have not lost the opening match of the AFCON since Burkina Faso in 1998 and there appeared little prospect of that happening here once Fofana had struck.

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