JONATHAN Kodjia struck the only goal as Ivory Coast defeated South Africa 1-0 in the steamy Cairo heat yesterday in a meeting of former Africa Cup of Nations champions.
Ivory Coast won the title for the second time in 2015 but crashed out in the group stage two years ago without a victory and are trying to build a team to match that of its golden generation.
South Africa, who failed to qualify for the 2017 edition, on the other hand, have arrived in Egypt as one of the most unpredictable teams.
In the first half at Al Salam Stadium where temperatures again peaked around 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit), they were largely limited to counter-attacks with captain Thulani Hlatshwayo going closest with a header that brushed the roof of the net.
After a foul on the edge of the South Africa box Pepe, the 22-goal second highest French Ligue 1 scorer last season behind Kylian Mbappe, slammed a thunderous free-kick against the crossbar with Ronwen Williams rooted to the spot.
The South Africa goalkeeper then produced a stunning reflex save to keep Kodjia out moments later as the Aston Villa forward ran clean through before needlessly opting for power over precision. – AFP