Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia meet in Group D in the opening round of fixtures at the 2020 Olympics on Thursday in what could be a key game for both sides in terms of progressing to the knockout stages.
Brazil and Germany complete Group D, and if either Ivory Coast or Saudi Arabia are to progress beyond the first round they will almost certainly have to take all three points in this match.
Saudi Arabia are competing at the Olympics for the first time since 1996, when they exited the group stages without picking up a single point. The Green Falcons could be set for a similar showing this year having been drawn in an incredibly tough group and we expect them to struggle against what looks a strong Ivory Coast outfit.
The Elephants have selected AC Milan’s Franck Kessie, Manchester United defender Eric Bailly and Max Gradel of Sivasspor – who are all regulars for the senior side – as their overage players and the majority of the rest of their squad play their club football in Europe.
The Saudi squad are all home-based at club level – although they have also made the most of their overage spots with senior Saudi captain Salman Al-Faraj, Yasser Al-Shahjrani and Salem Al-Dawsari, who have 176 caps between them, in their squad.
The Saudis have played eight games in 2021 with five draws, two wins and just one defeat and have prepared well for the Olympics but Ivory Coast’s quality should prove the difference. The African nation have plenty of pace within their team and that will be tough for the Saudi Arabia defenders to deal with, and we’re backing the Ivory Coast to come through as comfortable 3-0 winners.