With few days to their crucial away match against Mali in the World Cup qualifiers, Ivory Coast are facing a huge injury setback, which coach Marc Wilmots fears could worsen their situation.
The Elephants will be without six players originally called up for the Bamako meeting of October 6. Crystal Palace midfielder Wilfried Zaha has been ruled out while frontman Doumbia Seydou of Sporting CP withdrew from the trip following a tendon tear.
Max Gradel, Gervinho, Adama Traoré and Seri Jean Michael have all been declared unfit and will not take part in the encounter. Youngster Digbo Maiga of French side Saint-Etienne, who was initially invited for replacement, could not join the group after his doctors reported he was unfit to travel.
Lille attacker Nicolas Pépé, 22, and defender Mamadou Bagayoko have been urgently called up to step in for the absentees. “It is a difficult situation for us. We never thought it would happen this way. They are key players to the team and will not be present. However, we have to work with those we have,” Wilmots said in Abidjan on Wednesday.
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“Despite the injury situation, my charges are still very motivated. They want to go to Bamako and do something, and that is exactly what I’m looking for.”
Leaders of Group C with 7 points, Ivory Coast will take on the Eagles of Mali at the Stade du 26 Mars in Bamako on Friday October 6.