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Preview: Ivory Coast Under-23s vs. Saudi Arabia Under-23s - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Olympic Games Men's Football clash between Ivory Coast Under-23s and Saudi Arabia Under-23s, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Ivory Coast Under-23s and Saudi Arabia Under-23s start their respective Olympic Games Men's Football campaigns on Thursday, as they square off in the opening game of group D.

The two sides have been handed a tough draw with Germany Under-23s and defending champions Brazil Under-23s, making a victory in this opening game crucial.

Match preview

Ivory Coast Under-23s made it to this stage through the African Under-23 Cup of Nations in 2019, acting as the Olympics qualifiers.

They cruised through the group stage, picking up 1-0 wins over Nigeria and Zambia to secure top spot, booking them a tie with Ghana as a result.

Les Elephants finally got past their opponents after a penalty shootout in the semi-final following a 2-2 draw in normal time, with Youssouf Dao hitting a brace, as Ismael Diallo, Hamed Traore and Koffi Kouao all converting their spot kicks.

They would ultimately fall short in the final, suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Egypt after extra time, despite netting an 89th-minute equaliser through Aboubacar Doumbia.

Nonetheless, they earned a spot in the Olympics thanks to their long spell in the continental tournament, and will look to start their campaign with a victory on Thursday.

They take on a Saudi Arabia side who qualified through the AFC Under-23 Championship.

Saad Al-Shehri's side reached just their second Olympic Games Football tournament after an impressive continental campaign at the beginning of 2020.

They firstly advanced out of the group with relative ease, defeating Japan 2-1 and Syria 1-0 alongside a draw with Qatar to finish on seven points.

That saw them drawn against Thailand in the quarter-finals, and a 78th-minute goal from Abdullah Al-Hamdan meant they progressed as 1-0 winners.

They then won by the same scoreline against Uzbekistan in the semi-final, but eventually fell at the final hurdle, losing 1-0 to South Korea after extra time in the final.

Regardless, they earned one of the four available spots by making the semi-finals, and they will now head into the upcoming tournament with hopes of defying the odds and going far.

Ivory Coast Under-23s form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • L

Saudi Arabia Under-23s form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • D
  • L

Team News

Ivory Coast boast an impressive collection of talent in their young side, with 19-year-old Manchester United winger Amad Diallo expected to shine this summer's tournament.

They took advantage of the rules allowing three over-age players by adding in plenty of quality and experience too, bringing Sivasspor attacker Max Gradel and AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie into the side.

They are joined by the final player aged over 23 - Manchester United centre-back Eric Bailly - who will look to keep it tight at the back to help them go deep into the tournament.

Saudi Arabia's 22-man squad also includes three over-age players, with defender Yasser Al-Shahrani, midfielder Salman Al-Faraj and winger Salem Al-Dawsari, bringing plenty of experience.

Al-Faraj will captain the side, but forward Abdullah Al-Hamdan could be the pick of the younger players, having already hit four goals in 13 appearances for the senior team at the age of 21.

Ivory Coast Under-23s possible starting lineup:
Nagoli; Gnaka, Bailly, I Diallo, Singo; Doumbia, Kessie, Kouassie; Gradel, Kouame, Diallo

Saudi Arabia Under-23s possible starting lineup:
Al Rubaie; Al-Shahrani, Al-Yami, Abdulhamid, Al-Amri; Ali, Al-Khulaif, Al-Faraj, Al-Hassan; Al-Hamdan, Al-Dawsari

SM words green background

We say: Ivory Coast Under-23s 2-0 Saudi Arabia Under-23s

While Saudi Arabia Under-23s could defy expectations at this tournament, Ivory Coast's strong mix of young talent and over-age quality should see them over the line in the opening game.

Their three picks balance out an already impressive side, and Bailly should hugely strengthen the defence while Gradel will cause problems alongside Amad Diallo.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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Who will win Thursday's Olympic Games Men's Football clash between Ivory Coast U23s and Saudi Arabia U23s?

Ivory Coast Under-23s
Saudi Arabia Under-23s
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Saudi Arabia's Taiseer Al Jassam celebrates scoring their first goal with Yasser Al-Shahrani during the international friendly with Germany on June 8, 2018
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