There will be no cold air in the atmosphere in Abidjan as Marc Wilmots’ Elephants of Ivory Coast take on Herve Renard’s Atlas Lions of Morocco.
They are both staying in motion and heat up, getting ready to clash in Abidjan at Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny where only one of the teams to earn a presence Pass for the 2018 Russia World Cup.
There is no cold weather for their fans either. The competition for seats is still on; with the Moroccan Federation hoping to get 8,000 tickets while sources from the Ivory Coast claim that Moroccans would get only 201 seats.
But “all that seems to be normal if you want to attend this sixth and final round. Not just any kind of round. This time it’s between the Elephants and the Lions. Both hungry enough to go after what they want… They will back one another into the corners of Le Félicia, battle it out menacingly until a definite winner is proclaimed. And that winner takes all final Group C showdown to secure earning over seven million pounds and qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia ” said Serge Theophile an avid supporter of the Côte d’Ivoire.
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The Moroccan squad know that game 6 will be very though. ” It’s going to be played in the loud and rocking Houphouët-Boigny stadium. The Atlas Lions need a draw or victory to book a place in the World Cup finals for the fifth time in their history but that’s going to be very difficult against the Elephants. La Côte d’Ivoire have no choice but to win. And even though Drogba and Toure weren’t finally called up to play, the game is going to be a rough competition. I am very excited. I have asked for time off work to attend this historic and decisive match and my boss didn’t mind. That is a big dream for all Moroccans. We haven’t qualified for the finals since 1998 World Cup in France” said Ibrahim Achibane a 35- year passionate Atlas Lions’ fan.
On the field, according to the lists released by the coaches, there are no major surprises from the teams that played the previous round, apart from the return of Wilfried Zaha who has not appeared under the orange t-shirt for several months due to injury, and Konan Ghislain, who seems to have impressed Mark Wilmots with his good performance at Victoria Guimares. On the Moroccan side, Achraf Bencherki, the Wydad center forward, and Soufiane Amrabat, Feyenoord Rotterdam’s midfielder, joining the group, while the Southampton winger, Soufiane Boufal is making his comeback.
One thing is sure, over 45,000 fans will be crowded into the Houphouët-Boigny stadium. Every space and every crag is expected to be filled. A overwhelming majority decked out in the Ebrié lagoon spirit-the orange colour- and the rest branding the red and green colours. All the ingredients appear to be gathered to enjoy the most exciting game of this Group C African qualifiers.
By Simo Aragroug is a London-based Moroccan journalist, a veteran of many AFCON tournaments.