Ivory Coast got off to a winning start in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations, with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Group D rivals South Africa at the Al Salam Stadium, Cairo.
The only goal of the game was scored by Aston Villa forward Jonathan Kodjia in the second half, after missing a sitter in the first half, when he let a shot rip directly at the goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation.
The Elephants were clearly the favorites in the tie, but Bafana Bafana made sure that the 2015 champions had to earn the three points and put up a good fight, eventually caving in to the attacking pressure from the Ivorians.
Surprisingly, Crystal Palace's Wilfred Zaha was not named in the starting XI by coach Ibrahim Kamara, who could've been the difference on the pitch with his flair and finishing touch, but nonetheless the outcome was in their favor.
The pick of the bunch was definitely Nicolas Pepe, who was driving the counter-attacks and looked calm and confident when in possession. It's a shame he wasn't involved in the winning goal.
A penalty call by the South Africans was overlooked by the officials in the dying moments of the game, when Lars Veldwijk was pulled to the ground by Ivorian defender Wilfried Kanon, will remain one of the biggest talking points of the game.
It will also raise questions on the decision to not use the revolutionary VAR technology until the QFs at the tournament.
Now, we take a look at the three majors factors that helped the Elephants to a winning start to their campaign.
#3 Ivory Coast were driving the ball forward a lot
Right from the kick-off whistle, the two-time champions made their intentions clear. They were up and running, causing all sorts of problem to the South African defenders. But Ivory Coast was certainly lacking the edge in the first half.
Nicolas Pepe, who can be playing for one of the top European clubs next season, was clearly the standout player for them. He was creating chances, letting in forward passes and linking well with Kodjia.
In the first half itself, the team came close to getting on the scoresheet, with Pepe rattling the post with his freekick from close range and poor finishing after decent buildup let them down.
Though they only had a total of three shots on goal in the entire match, it was there relentless chase of the ball, despite the unforgiving Egyptian heat that earned them the goal and three points.