Ivory Coast coach Marc Wilmots tells ACLSports.com that facing Morocco in the final match of the 2018 World Cup qualifying would be a ‘make or break’ encounter.
Both teams from Group C are currently battling for the sole ticket to Russia following the elimination of the other two members, Gabon and Mali.
Morocco sit on top of the log with 9 points, with the Elephants trailing by one.
Tagged as ‘final’, by the local media of both countries, the upcoming clash will hold in the Ivorian commercial hub, Abidjan, on November 11.
Wilmots is expecting a good fight from coach Herve Renard, who has a good knowledge of the Ivorian team after leading them to clinch the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.
ACLSports: What comes to mind when you realise you will be facing a man who led your team to a continental triumph just two years ago?
Wilmots: It awakens you. It puts you in a higher mood to fight for victory. I know that game is going to be tough and that is why they have tagged it a ‘final’, because whoever wins it claims the ticket. But we are ready and we will fight. It is a make or break one.
ACLSports: You and your team are facing fierce criticisms back home. Many pundits say the team currently lacks depth and a visible style of play.
Wilmots: They could be right or wrong. After the 2015 Afcon, many key players left and that affected progression. We could say the team is undergoing a period of transition. We’ve got a couple of new players who are yet to integrate and we have a long-term plan. We cannot be assessed or judged using few games.
ACLSports: But the World Cup is close, would you keep experimenting until kick-off?
Wilmots: If we qualify I think that would put off some pressure and enable us concentrate on preparation. We would have some few months to put house in order through friendly matches and camping. The main objective now is to qualify to Russia 2018 and that is what we have in mind.
ACLSports: And that fight is happening in Abidjan, your ground. Do you see it as an advantage?
Wilmots: Personally, I’d say no. You saw how Gabon came to defeat us (2-1) in Bouake the other time. So, anything can happen in football. Never be too confident. And we are playing Morocco, a tough side with a good coach.
ACLSports: Morocco could keep to their traditional fast and neat style, using the flanks. Do you think you have the men to disrupt that for 90 minutes?
Wilmots: (Laugh) We’ll see. They have their style we have ours. Ninety minutes will decide for both teams.
ACLSports: What if the worst happens what would you do, resign, prepare for Afcon 2019?
Wilmots: We have not come to that yet. You can ask me that question the day after the game.