Zambia beaten by Ivory Coast in opening Nations Cup 2023 qualifier

Ibrahim Sangare celebrates a goal for Ivory Coast
PSV midfielder Ibrahim Sangare was on the scoresheet for Ivory Coast against Zambia

Former Africa Cup of Nations winners Zambia suffered an early setback in qualifying for the 2023 finals as Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Comoros all won their opening fixtures.

Goals from Serge Aurier, Christian Kouame and Ibrahim Sangare consigned Zambia to a 3-1 defeat away against Ivory Coast in Group H.

Two-time African champions Ivory Coast are taking part in the qualifiers despite already being assured of a place at next year's tournament as hosts.

As a result, only other side from their group will progress.

Comoros, one of the surprise packages at the 2021 Nations Cup finals in Cameroon earlier this year, joined the Elephants on three points at the top of Group H after beating Lesotho 2-0.

Those results mean Zambia, winners in 2012, will need a positive outcome when the Chipolopolo host Comoros on Tuesday in Lusaka.

Meanwhile, second-half efforts from Hassane Bande and Dango Ouattara gave Burkina Faso a 2-0 win over Cape Verde in Group B, with Eswatini grabbing a 2-2 draw away against Togo in the group's other game.

Coelacanths steal march on Zambia

Comoros, Ivory Coast and Zambia all began the campaign with new managers, and the pressure will be on Zambia coach Aljosa Asanovic after an opening defeat at the hands of the West Africans.

Ivory Coast forward Max Gradel hit the bar in the first half in Yamoussoukro, and the Sivasspor man set up the first two goals for the hosts after the interval.

First Aurier converted a cross at the back post in the 67th minute and nine minutes later Kouame glanced a Gradel corner past visiting goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata.

Sangare added a third for Jean-Louis Gasset's side in the 89th minute from just outside the six-yard box before Leicester City striker Patson Daka grabbed a consolation goal in injury time.

Zambia have missed the past three Nations Cups and have work to do after Comoros started with three points in Group H earlier on Friday.

An Ivory Coast fan in Yamoussoukro
The Yamoussoukro Stadium is set to be one of the venues when Ivory Coast host the Nations Cup next year

The Indian Ocean islanders are looking to secure back-to-back appearances at the finals and incoming coach Younes Zerdouk recorded a routine 2-0 home win over Lesotho.

Amir Abdou had led the Coelacanths to the last 16 on their tournament debut in January, but he left to take charge of Mauritania in March.

Guingamp midfielder Youssouf M'Changama opened the scoring with a low shot from the edge of the box just before the hour mark in Moroni, and Benjaloud Youssouf added the second with a fierce effort in the 81st minute.

Stallions up and running as Eswatini surprise

Burkina Faso were another side with a new coach after parting company with Kamou Malo despite a run to the semi-finals in Cameroon.

Frenchman Hubert Velud was appointed in April and the Stallions saw off Cape Verde in a game played in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh because Burkina Faso do not have a stadium fit for international football.

In the other Group B game Euloge Placca Fessou netted a stunning free-kick from 30 yards out to give Togo the lead against Eswatini in Lome after 20 minutes.

Sabelo Ndzinisa nodded in from six yards to equalise for Eswatini with six minutes remaining, but Kodjo Laba powerfully headed in Floyd Ayite's corner to restore Togo's lead just three minutes later.

However, Eswatini, who came through the preliminary qualifying round, had the final say when Siboniso Ngwenya made it 2-2 in the fifth minute of added time.

Sparrowhawks keeper Malcolm Barcola could not keep out Ngwenya's powerful drive which sneaked under the crossbar, leaving the home crowd in the Stade de Kegue in a stunned silence.

Cape Verde will look to get off the mark when the Blue Sharks play Togo on Tuesday, with Burkina Faso facing Eswatini in Johannesburg.

Meanwhile, defending champions Senegal get their qualifying campaign under way on Saturday, when the Teranga Lions host Benin in Diamniadio in Group L (19:00 GMT).

Upcoming Group B and H fixtures:

Tuesday, 7 June

  • Eswatini v Burkina Faso (Johannesburg, 1300) - Group B
  • Zambia v Comoros (Lusaka, 1300) - Group H
  • Cape Verde v Togo (Marrakesh, 1600) - Group B

Thursday, 9 June

  • Lesotho v Ivory Coast (Johannesburg, 1900) - Group H

All kick-off times in GMT.

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