African Cup of Nations 2013: Predictions for Group D Openers on Day 4

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2013

NELSPRUIT, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 25:  Yaya Toure of the Ivory Coast (C) celebrates scoring the opening goal with Didier Drogba (L) and team mates during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group G match between North Korea and Ivory Coast at the Mbombela Stadium on June 25, 2010 in Nelspruit, South Africa.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

The Ivory Coast, which enters the 2013 African Cup of Nations as the favorite, will look to begin its run toward the title with a victory over Togo in the first match of Group D. The other match on Day 4 features Tunisia and Algeria.

It's been a low-scoring tournament in the early going. The tone was set by Group A, which featured two scoreless draws on Day 1. Countries are clearly trying to avoid an early setback, so fans are witnessing a lot of conservative play.

Don't be surprised if that begins to change on Day 4, though, especially with the star-studded Ivory Coast in action. Here's a look at the opening matches for Group D, along with predictions for both, as the final four teams get their Cup of Nations started.

Ivory Coast vs. Togo

The Ivory Coast faces a lot of pressure heading into the tournament. Anything less than winning the tournament would be considered a disappointment, and it's a fair expectation given the amount of talent on the squad.

Since the Elephants have no shortage of big names, starting with veteran striker Didier Drogba, they are expected to cruise through Group D. They need to earn all three points against an overmatched Togo side to make that happen.

Tottenham's Emmanuel Adebayor leads the charge for Togo, but his supporting cast shouldn't strike fear into the Ivory Coast. Aside from Adebayor, no player on the Sparrow Hawks has tallied more than six goals at the international level.

Expect the Ivory Coast to come out on the attack from the opening whistle—something that hasn't happened much in the tournament thus far. The Elephants should be able to get on the board within the first half hour and will cruise from there.

Prediction: 3-0 Ivory Coast

Tunisia vs. Algeria

Assuming the Ivory Coast takes care of business against Togo, this match is going to take on an extremely high level of importance for both sides. They are the two that will likely battle for the second spot in the knockout rounds from Group D.

While Tunisia will have to lean heavily on striker Issam Jemaa, who has scored 34 goals in 71 international appearances, it must also win in the midfield. That onus falls on Jemaa's Kuwait teammate Chadi Hammami and promising 22-year-old Youssef Msakni.

Algeria counters with a striker duo that's gotten off to a terrific start for the national team. El Arbi Hillel Soudani has scored six times in eight games, and Islam Slimani has found the net five times in six games. Midfielder Sofiane Feghouli is another player to watch.

Ultimately, both sides understand what this match means in terms of advancing, so neither one is going to take any unnecessary risks moving forward. Expect a tightly played match, especially in the second half, with each country getting a point.

Prediction: 1-1

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