Despite a shock 2-1 home defeat against Gabon in the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifying Matchday 4 last month, Ivory Coast remain leaders of Group C with 7 points and will face Mali on Friday October 6 in their penultimate qualifier.
Marc Wilmots believes the Elephants will defeat the Malians to strengthen their lead in the group. “We have two games to go and we are all willing to be in Russia, the players, the journalists and the Ivorian people. I know many people are worried and even scared of our situation, but I believe we will qualify,” Wilmots said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Morocco and Gabon are trailing the Ivorians by one and two points respectively and could alter the group’s standing this weekend as the race to Russia 2018 enters it decisive phase.
Ivory Coast have been consistent in their participation since their debut in 2006 in Germany, and Wilmots is upbeat the West Africans could also make it this time despite a fair campaign that has drawn criticisms across the country.
“Mali have two points with little hope of claiming the ticket but that doesn’t mean it would be a free ride for us on Friday. They have a strong and determined team and would likely be using the meeting as a test ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
“We have a plan and we will be implementing it against the Eagles in Bamako. We believe things will work out for us.”
However, the Elephants appear not to be in total control of their destiny as the group’s other game between Morocco vs Gabon could put off the decider until the final matchday when 2015 Afcon winning coach Herve Renard will face his former team, Ivory Coast, in November.
“Our last game will be against the Carthage Eagles and we will play them like in a final. And again, don’t forget we will be hosting them,” Wilmots said.
The Mali vs Ivory Coast match will take place at the Stade du 26 Mars in Bamako on Friday October 6.