By Mark Gleeson
LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Togo's Emmanuel Adebayor returns to a major footballing stage for the first time since the striker's spell at Crystal Palace ended last season when he leads his country out at the African Nations Cup on Monday.
Adebayor is without a club but captains Togo as they face holders Ivory Coast in the Group C opener at a new stadium in Oyem, opened last week but with construction workers still on site at the weekend putting the final touches to the venue.
Adebayor might lack match fitness but Togo coach Claude Le Roy told reporters on Sunday he expected the former African Footballer of the Year to make a major impact.
“He’s an exceptional player, he has an status in the game and he is key for us,” he said.
Togo’s tussle with a fancied Ivorian side, strengthened by Wilfried Zaha but without Yaya Toure (retired) and Gervinho (injured), is followed by Morocco versus the Democratic Republic of Congo, who were third at the last Nations Cup two years ago.
Morocco are coached by Herve Renard, who took the Ivorians to the 2015 title and Zambia to the winners’ podium in 2012.
Senegal were the first team to win a game at this year’s tournament when they beat Tunisia 2-0 on Sunday after Group B had opened with a 2-2 draw between Algeria and Zimbabwe.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)