ABU DHABI // Goals from Salomon Kalou and a Didier Drogba penalty earned 10-man Ivory Coast a 2-0 win over Tunisia in the first of their two international friendlies in the capital.
The Chelsea pair scored either side of the half-time interval at the Zayed Sports City Stadium to give coach Francois Zahoui's African Cup of Nations side a solid result. They play Libya on Monday at Al Wahda's Al Nahyan Stadium before they head for the biennial tournament from January 21 in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
"The players were a bit unsettled and nervous, and the outing would have done them some good," Zahoui said. "I am happy with the preparation, and with our next game with Libya I think we can go with confidence for a competition in which we are sure to do well. It has been 20 years since we won the African Cup of Nations and I strongly feel we have the quality to go all the way."
Kalou opened the scoring after neatly controlling a through ball before steadying himself and shooting from the edge of the box.
Drogba was spot on with the penalty two minutes on resumption, awarded for a handball by Karim Haggui, the Tunisian defender, who was trying to evade a close-range shot from Arthur Boka.
The Elephants ended the game with 10 men after Cheik Toite was sent off by the Emirati referee Amar Al Junaibi for a scuffle.
Boubacar Barry, the Ivorian goalkeeper, had an outstanding game. He denied Tunisia from getting back in the game with some excellent saves in the second half.
He blocked a bullet free kick from Aymen Abdennour from just outside the area and thwarted a close-range effort from Oussama Darragi. He was in the spotlight again late in the game, pushing out Saber Khelifa's effort from 10 yards and blocking a powerful shot from Sami Allagui. Abdulkader Keita, the Ivorian winger who plays for Al Sadd in Qatar, was confident his side can live up their billing as joint favourites, alongside Ghana, and was bullish about his team's chances of ending their two-decade wait for a continental championship.
"The team demonstrated that with a win tonight and they are only going to get better," he said.
When asked of the teams that are likely to make an impression, he said: "It is hard to single out any team. The fact teams like Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria have not made it makes me feel that there are a lot of others with good credentials to win. I can say we are one of them."