MAPUTO (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers) - Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire head to Saturday's Group D highly-anticipated game looking to improve their FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 hopes.
While Senegal have claimed two FIBA AfroBasket Third-Place finishes over the last five years, Cote d'Ivoire have last reached the Quarter-Finals of FIBA Africa's flagship tournament in 2013.
At first glance, Senegal emerge as favorite to win this clash between two former African champions not only because they have registered a staggering progress in recent years, but fundamentally for Senegal's hugely talented group of players.
The last time, Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal faced off - at FIBA AfroBasket 2013 - Senegal bounced back from a humiliating 74-46 Group Phase defeat to upset hosts Cote d'Ivoire 57-56 in the Third-Place game.
But this matchup is a lot more than a clash between two teams facing different circumstances. This is a must-win game for either team given that both hosts Mozambique and the Central African Republic have indicated willingness to secure one of the three tickets for the 12-team second round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers.
Coached by Abdourahmane Ndiaye - who was named FIBA African Championship's Most Valuable Player on two consecutive occasions (1973 and 1974), and has guided his country to a Second-Place finish at FIBA AfroBasket 2005 - Senegal currently rank as the No. three team in Africa behind Angola, and Nigeria.
Seven players who featured at FIBA AfroBasket 2017 have been shortlisted for the Maputo showdown.
Winners of the 1985 edition of the African Championship, Cote d'Ivoire arrive in Maputo chasing their first FIBA Basketball World Cup ticket for the first time since 2010.
The 'Elephants' currently sit as No.6 team in Africa.
A Senegal win against Cote d'Ivoire on Saturday would have tremendous implications for the remainder of the African Qualifiers.