Still hurting from their 2-1 home loss to Gabon last month, Ivory Coast need a win in Bamako to keep their campaign alive. Ivory Coast and their fans are yet to forget the shock 2-1 defeat to Gabon in Bouake during matchday four of the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.
Although that outcome did not affect their top position in Group C, it exposed the weaknesses of the team and the need to exercise more caution while facing even lowly teams. With 7 points at the summit of the group, the Elephants’ position remains fragile as they could be toppled by second-place Morocco or third-place Gabon, who boast of 6 and 5 points respectively.
Coach Marc Wilmots will be without half a dozen key players including Gervinho, Max Gradel, Wilfried Zaha and Doumbia Seydou, who have been ruled out due to injuries.
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Facing the Eagles of Mali looks very tricky for Ivory Coast who are on a must-win mission against a team that is already looking ahead to the qualifiers of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Mali have not been eliminated from the campaign like many people think. With two points, they can still leap up the ladder if they happen to win their two upcoming games. However, poor organisation and tensions at the football federation have affected the team’s composure, leading to the resignation of Frenchman coach Alain Giresse two months ago.
And it now appears the 2018 World Cup is no longer a priority for anyone – playing body, coaching staff, officials and fans. With the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers resuming in March 2018, resources are being preserved for that campaign instead of a Fifa World Cup that is proving very unlikely.
Mali are participating in the U-17 Fifa World Cup holding in India, which kicks off on Friday. As Africa’s junior champions, the young Eagles are keen on proving a point in the competition, as local fans wait to show full support. This would likely divide or completely shift attention from the 2018 World Cup qualifying.
Mali vs. Gabon match will kick off at 17H00 GMT on Friday, October 06
Stade du 26 Mars in Bamako
WHAT THEY SAID
Ivory Coast coach Marc Wilmots
“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. 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.”
Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba
“We are prepared to take on the Elephants on Friday in Bamako. It is going to be one of those matches when you feel little pressure and go out to play like you’ve got nothing to lose or win. But be careful, those kinds of games are the best because you are able to stretch your potential to the full.”
After their frustration at the hands of the Gabonese recently, Ivory Coast would go into the Mali game more result conscious while safeguarding their back half from havoc that could jeopardise an already shaky campaign.
Mali 1-2 Ivory Coast