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Jonathan Kodjia's second-half strike saw Ivory Coast edge to a 1-0 win over South Africa in their Africa Cup of Nations opener.
Les Elephants exited at the group stage two years ago having failed to win a match as defending champions, but they collected three points at the first attempt this time in Cairo on Monday.
Lille star Nicolas Pepe hit the bar with a first-half free-kick and Ivory Coast had to stay patient, finally getting their goal midway through the second period from Kodjia.
The goal clinched an ultimately deserved victory for Ibrahima Kamara's men, who play Morocco next as South Africa face Namibia.
South Africa had the first chance of note just before the half-hour mark as Thulani Hlatshwayo headed just wide of the top-left corner, but Ivory Coast built momentum heading into half-time.
Pepe saw a superb 20-yard free-kick crash away off the crossbar, before Ronwen Williams superbly saved from Kodjia at close range as the striker bore down on goal.
But Kodjia capitalised on his second big opportunity after 64 minutes, with the Aston Villa striker left completely unmarked to control and send a scruffy finish under Williams, Max Gradel with the assist.
Ivory Coast brought Wilfried Zaha off the bench in a bid to extend their lead but instead had to see out a nervy finish, although only Williams' stunning diving stop denied Pepe from making it two with another fizzing free-kick.
Chance! Pepe launches a free-kick towards the top corner, Williams pulls off a stunning save to deny Côte d'Ivoire a second goal
Goal! Côte d'Ivoire break the deadock! Jonathan Kodjia with the goal!
Peep! Half-time! 0-0 at the break with Côte d'Ivoire having the better of the chances in the first 45!
Chance! Jonathan Kodjia baring down on goal, he has to score! His shot is straight at Ronwen Williams. Poor!
Chance! Nicolas Pepe smashes the cross bar with a free-kick!
Peep! Game time in Cairo!
PLENTY of water will be needed today in Cairo as temperatures reach a toasty 37 degrees! (That is very hot) expect two water breaks during the game!
Team news time! First up Côte d'Ivoire, Nicolas Pepe the Lille striker who is being courted by a host of top sides in Europe starts, Aston Villa striker Jonathan Kodjia leads the line. As for South Africa, Stuart Baxter is going with a 4-3-3 formation, Lebo Mothiba is the man to watch for Banafa Banafa, the striker plies his trade in Ligue 1 with Strasbourg and scored nine goals last season in the league.
Everything is looking in order at the Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo! Both teams are set up and ready to go! Who do you think will come away with the victory tonight?
Lucas Radebe has tweeted his well wishes for the side ahead of the big game! Remember, we get underway at 17:30 Mecca!
So here we go! Côte d'Ivoire will be looking to make a strong start to Group C and looked impressive going through the paces ahead of the game. How important will Crystal Palace man Wilf Zaha be for Les Éléphants tonight? Will he even start?! Team news is coming in soon!
Good afternoon! Welcome to the Live Updates of Côte d'Ivoire Vs South Africa in the Cup of Nations. Les Éléphants open up their Group C campaign against South Africa in Cairo. Join me for all the build-up, team news and goals as they go in from the big game. Don't forget that you can watch the Live Stream for the game via beIN CONNECT.