AFCON 2023: Gasset wants home support ahead of tournament opener

 Cote d’Ivoire coach, Jean-Louis Gasset, has called for support his team for their tourna­ment opener against Group A rivals Guin­ea-Bissau at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan tomorrow.

Cote d’Ivoire is riding the crest of a three-game winning streak heading into the tournament. Last weekend they thrashed Sierra Leone 5-1 in a warm-up friendly, while prior to that they racked up 9-0 and 2-0 wins over Seychelles and the Gambia respec­tively in 2026 World Cup qualifying matches in November.

Guinea-Bissau meanwhile, have had mixed results of late, including a 6-2 defeat at the hands of Mali in a warm-up friendly last weekend. Prior to that, their two World Cup quali­fication matches in November pro­duced a 1-1 draw with Burkina Faso and 1-0 win over minnows Djibouti.

Neither side has reported any inju­ry worries heading into the opening match, and are likely to select similar starting XI’s to those fielded in their warm-up matches last weekend.

“The Ivorians must be 100 per cent with us. It is for you that we will fight. We need to feel that you are with us. Supporters have an import­ant role to play. Even in difficult mo­ments, if we miss a goal, you have to be there even if we are dominated,” said Ivory Coast coach, Jean-Louis Gasset.

“Last time at the 2021 AFCON, I was locked in my room for 10 days. It was my first Africa Cup of Nations and I wasn’t able to help the team. This time, I want to be ready and I hope the coach will call on me,” said Guinea-Bissau midfielder, Alfa Semedo.

Ivory Coast Jeremie Boga, the former Chelsea, Sassuolo and Ata­lanta winger, has been in fine form for Nice this season and showed his potency in an Elephants jersey last weekend when he registered both a goal and an assist in Ivory Coast’s 5-1 friendly win over Sierra Leone.

Guinea-Bissau Alfa Semedo, the imposing midfielder endured a frus­trating 2021 AFCON due to Covid concerns and will be hungry to help Guinea-Bissau enjoy a strong tourna­ment in Ivory Coast starting with a strong showing against the hosts on Saturday.

In head-to-head terms, Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau have met only once before, a 2001 West Africa Nations Cup match played in Bissau which was won 4-1 by the Elephants. — Supersports