Cote d'Ivoire's Gervinho and Yaya Toure
Wednesday Nov 12, 2014. 10:04
Ivory Coast will play ‘away’ in their own country when they tackle Sierra Leone in their penultimate Group D Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Friday. Kick-off at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan is set for 17:00 CAT.
The Leone Stars are unable to play in their home country due to the Ebola epidemic, hence the match sees them playing ‘hosts’ in the capital of their opponents. Having claimed just a point from their first four qualifiers, Sierra Leone are virtually out of the running for the 2015 Nations Cup.
The same cannot be said for Ivory Coast, though the Elephants find themselves in third place in the group, four points adrift of leaders Cameroon and trailing second-placed DR Congo on goal difference.
This means that a victory against Sierra Leone would set them up perfectly for what promises to be a titanic clash at home to Cameroon next Wednesday.
The pressure, therefore, is very much building on Elephants coach Herve Renard, who has shown in his squad selection that he is inclined to turn towards the team’s elder statesman for inspiration.
The Frenchman has admitted that he would like to have veteran Didier Drogba in his squad, particularly in the absence of the injured Seydou Doumbia and Wilfried Bony, who is suspended for the match against the Leone Stars but will be available for the Cameroon fixture.
“I am in favour of having all Ivoirian players available for selection. I don’t know what happened within the team before my time, but when I see Didier Drogba playing for Chelsea I need him for sure,” Renard said on the Ivoirian Football Federation website.
In Drogba’s absence, Salomon Kalou will be the man charged with leading the line for the Elephants against Sierra Leone. The former Chelsea attacker scored twice in Ivory Coast’s last match, a 3-4 home loss to DR Congo.
The coach also called-up Didier Zokora, who turned down the invitation and emphasised that he will not make a U-turn on his decision to retire from international football. However, another experienced campaigner, Kolo Toure, is back after impressing for Liverpool in their Champions League clash against Real Madrid earlier this month.
Left-back Adama Traoré, midfielder Cheick Doukouré and Mansou Kouakou are all new to the national team.