Elephants look to take control in Group K

Elephants look to take control in Group K
Wilfried Zaha of Ivory Coast

by Graeme Jackson

Wednesday Nov 11, 2020. 10:00

Ivory Coast will look to take control of Group K in the Africa Cup of Nations when they host Madagascar at Stade Ebimpe in Abidjan on the evening of Thursday 12 November 2020, kick-off at 21h00 CAT.

The West African heavyweights come into the clash placed third on the standings, with three points after a 1-0 home win over Niger and 2-1 away loss to Ethiopia in matches played in November last year.

The clash will be new coach Patrice Beaumelle’s first competitive fixture in charge, having been appointed earlier this year and overseen a draw with Belgium and loss to Japan in friendlies last month.

The Elephants’ squad includes newcomers Sebastien Haller and Willy Boly, as well as cult hero and veteran Gervinho, alongside their regular stars such as Wilfried Zaha, Serge Aurier and Franck Kessie.

Beaumelle insists that his team will not underestimate Madagascar: “It’s a team we’ve been following for a few years. The coach in place and the group have been together for a few years and have had a very good AFCON 2019.

“It’s a group of friends who have a state of mind above all. It is also a team which has quality, which is united and which is growing week after week with bi-nationals. It’s a solid group with full confidence that we will have to respect and approach in better conditions.

“We must take advantage of this first match in Abidjan to impose our style. On paper, we have a wonderful team, it will have to be translated in the field.”

Madagascar top the pool with a full haul of six points, having beaten Ethiopia (1-0 at home) and Niger (6-2 away), though they suffered a 2-1 loss in their last outing, a friendly against Burkina Faso in October.

Barea’s coach Nicolas Dupuis has admitted that he was not keen on heading to Ivory Coast for November 12, citing worries over assembling the team with different travel restrictions in place and the tense situation in the West African country regarding recent contested elections.

“I don’t want to lead my players into a trap. And I don’t want to go there either,” admitted Dupuis last week. Nonetheless, the French coach has named a strong squad which includes two newcomers (goalkeeper Mathias Randriamamy and midfielder Loic Lapoussin) as well as the return of experienced pros Arohasina ‘Dax’ Andrianarimanana and Njiva Rakotoharimalala.

Ivory Coast have won five of the six matches between the teams since the turn of the century, with the latest a 3-0 home win in a World Cup qualifier in October 2008.

Barea will host the Elephants for the return game in Toamasina on Tuesday 17 November.

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