Cote d’Ivoire-Senegal & the top five rivalries of 2013 Afcon qualifying

Qualifying for the 2013 Afcon picks up in September, and profiles the five clashes to look out for when it comes to determining who goes to South Africa
By Rami Ayari

As the Africa Cup of Nations switches from being held in even years to odd, African football fans have just a short wait for another continental football tournament.

The next edition of the CAF’s flagship event takes place this coming January in South Africa, and so far Bafana Bafana are the only team certain of taking part. Thirty other nations will each battle a designated opponent home and away to determine the rest of the competitors.

In the absence of groups and a round-robin system, the two leg ties mean that plenty of countries that typically would not be in the race to qualify, have a chance of making it to the big event. take a look at some of the rivalries that have been rekindled by the 2013 Afcon qualifying draw which was held on July 5.


Some might scoff at this encounter being on the list, but it is a traditional rivalry that is made interesting by the fact that Ethiopia are as close as they have come to qualifying for the first time since 1982. While they are still a long way from being an African powerhouse they were in the early days of the Afcon when they took second place in the inaugural edition, third place in 1959, and were crowned champions in 1962, qualifying would be a huge achievement for the Walya Antelopes. Doing so at the expense of their north-western neighbours would make the accomplishment all the sweeter.

The two sides have faced each other a total of 24 times, and the results are fairly even with Sudan winning 10 times, Ethiopia winning eight, and six games ending in draws. Interestingly, only two games have ended scoreless and Ethiopia recorded the largest victory, a 5-1 drubbing in Khartoum in November 2005. That being said, Sudan are still the favourites considering their quarter-final finish at the 2012 Afcon where they fell to eventual champions Zambia. Mohamed 'Mazda' Abdalla’s men’s inconsistency is their biggest liability. They will have to bring their A game in September as their opponents are coming off a good string of results including a 1-1 away draw to South Africa, a 2-0 home win against the Central African Republic, and another 1-1 away draw against Benin.


While Gabon versus Togo is not necessarily a well-established rivalry, the interest in this clash stems from the fact that they are two sides that are on seemingly opposite trajectories at the moment. Gabon have risen from relative obscurity to qualify for three out of four of the last Afcon editions while Togo are still suffering from the after effects of the Cabinda tragedy of 2010. The fatal bus attack claimed three lives, cost Kodjovi Obilale his career and led to Emmanuel Adebayor distancing himself from the side. The bad fortune coincided with FA troubles and, unsurprisingly, Togo’s results have suffered.

Nevertheless, the Sparrow Hawks are only two games away from qualifying for the 2013 Afcon and exorcising the demons of Cabinda. Standing in their way is a rising Gabonese unit that is fresh off a successful hosting of the 2012 tournament. New coach Paulo Duarte will know that after their excellent showing as hosts, failure will not be tolerated by the Gabonese Football Federation. With players such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bruno Zita, Gabon certainly have the edge talent-wise, but it would be quite a story if the Togolese shocked them and qualified in their stead. Historically speaking, Gabon usually come out on top. They have won eight out of nine games against the west Africans and the only match they did not win was a 1-1 draw.


It might be a stretch to call this a true rivalry since Zambia are the current reigning champions of Africa while Uganda have not qualified since 1978 (though they took second place that year). However, regionally, it is an important game as evidenced by the teams having faced each other an astounding 30 times throughout their history. Contrary to what many might suspect, Zambia do not have much of an edge in those games as they have won 13, lost 12, and tied five times.

What is more ominous for the African champs is that a look at Uganda’s recent results reveals that the current Cranes crop are no pushovers. Aside from bringing Uganda incredibly close to qualifying for the 2012 edition in Angola’s stead, coach Bobby Williamson has recently masterminded 1-1 draws against Angola in Luanda and Senegal in Kampala. Prior to that, the Ugandans incredibly overturned a 3-1 defeat against Congo in Pointe-Noire with a 4-0 home win to get to this last stage of Afcon qualifying. Thus, the Zambians should expect nothing less than a fierce fight from the Cecafa representatives.


It does not get much spicier than this, does it? All north African affairs tend to produce moments of controversy, rabid fan support, and incredible football. This match should be no different, especially since political relations between the two countries have been tense (to put it lightly) since the Libyan revolution began on February 17 2011.

On the pitch, the teams are both experiencing a renaissance of sorts as Algeria are showing signs of revival from a brief 2010 World Cup hangover while Libya have followed up their astounding qualification for the 2012 Afcon amidst a civil war with a memorable last minute win over Cameroon in 2014 World Cup qualifying.

While this is not Egypt versus Algeria or Tunisia versus Morocco, the games between these two north African neighbours will definitely be worth watching. Unsurprisingly, the Fennec Foxes come in as favourites, given their 12-2-2 record against the newly named Mediterranean Knights. Previous results will not mean much in September though, especially since this is clearly not the Libya of yesteryear. Ahmed Zuway and his team-mates showed as much in January when they recovered from a 1-0 opening loss to co-hosts Equatorial Guinea with a 2-2 draw against eventual champions Zambia and a 2-1 win against the Teranga Lions of Senegal.


The biggest gasp of the evening at the 2013 Afcon qualifying draw on July 5 was reserved for when beaten 2012 finalists Cote d’Ivoire were drawn against the unseeded team that everyone wanted to avoid: Senegal. Few will forget the perplexing Senegalese campaign last January when the Teranga Lions followed up an irreproachable qualifying run with 2-1 losses against each of Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, and Libya.

Crashing out from the competition so early without garnering a single point ended up costing Amara Traore his job and the country’s FA struggled to find a replacement as a deal to bring Pierre Lechantre fell through.

Joseph Koto currently serves as coach and so far is unbeaten with away draws against South Africa and Uganda and wins against Morocco and Liberia. It’s too early to say that Senegal are on the right path but a team with this much attacking firepower remains dangerous despite having a notoriously unstable defence. On the other hand, the Elephants also underwent a coaching change, with the unproven Sabri Lamouchi controversially taking the place of Francois Zahoui.

It is still too early to tell how well the Frenchman of Tunisian descent will mesh with the Ivorian stars but having an experienced group of players will certainly help. All in all, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal have faced each other a total of 14 times with the Elephants winning 10 meetings, losing three, and drawing once. The stars involved in this clash and the footballing history of these two west African sides makes this the top 2013 Afcon qualifying rivalry. Be sure to tune in!

Follow Rami Ayari on