BOUAKE. Bouake will come alive tonight with the opening Group B soccer match of the maiden edition of the African Nation Championship between Ghana and Zimbabwe.
For a town that has not seen such a competition for a long time, the game is expected to attract thousands of fans in and outside Cote d'Ivoire's second city for this much-awaited clash.
Both teams will be seeking a convincing win to announce their claim for the ultimate prize at the tournament designed exclusively for locally-based players.
Ghana, one of the pundits' choice to reach the final, boasts one of the best teams at the tournament and only an outstanding result will see them live by that status.
The Ghanaian team, dominated by seven players from champion club Asante Kotoko, is highly favoured to beat the Zimbabweans, but they can
only underrate the Southern Africans at their own peril.
For the four-time African champions, this match provides the right platform to avenge a painful 1-2 loss suffered at the hands of the Warriors at the Egypt 2006 African Cup of Nations finals
that incidentally led to their exit from the tournament.
It remains Ghana's only loss in six outings against Zimbabwe.
With somewhat quiet preparations in the build-up to the tournament, Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac has tasked his players to go the extra mile at the championship, and Zimbabwe are likely to be their first target.
Rajevac has praised the attitude of his players during their week-long camp in Sekondi and says it's now for them to prove just how good they are on the field of play.
"The players know what is expected of them and they must show to all their worth.
"We will approach one game after the other and will treat all opponents equally."
The Zimbabwe squad is dominated by players from Dynamos, last season's CAF-MTN Champions League semi-finalists, and if that performance is anything to go by, then fans should expect an action-packed clash.
The Warriors have no big names in their team, but the likes of Philip Marufu, George Magariro and Gilbert Banda can produce magic on a good day to ensure victory.
In the other Group B match scheduled for the evening, Libya will face the Democratic Republic of Congo in a clash that looks slightly tilted the way of the North Africans.
The Greens are seeking to use to CHAN to makeup for their failure to advance to the next stage of the qualifying rounds for the 2010 World Cup/African Cup of Nations tournaments due to goal difference after a photo finish involving Ghana and Gabon.
The squad, built around the Al-Ittihad team that reached the group phase of the Confederation Cup last season, has played together for a very long time and this is the right platform to exhibit the results of their togetherness.
Only the top two teams will progress to the final of the competition that spans from February 22 to March 8.
Ghana v Zimbabwe
Libya v DRC — CafOnline