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Sports

Côte d’Ivoire faces all-or-nothing World Cup qualifier against Morocco

media Côte d'Ivoire manager Marc Wilmots. AFP/Issouf Sanogo

Côte d’Ivoire manager Marc Wilmots said Tuesday the team was unfazed by pressure or minor injuries ahead of its all-or-nothing World Cup qualifying match against Morocco in Abidjan on Saturday.

Speaking at a press conference, Wilmots called on Ivorians to come to the stadium for the match.

“Where I’m from, we call that the 12th player,” the Belgian told reporters. “There’s a match, there’s a final to win. That is the objective.”

The equation for the match is simple: a win against Morocco means the team qualifies for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and a loss means they watch the tournament from home.

Calm before match

“The pressure is on both teams, because both can qualify”, Wilmots said, adding he was confident Côte d’Ivoire would hold it together on Saturday.

“I am calm, because I know what must be done and the players do, too,” he said, remarking that the team had “a number of options” for its strategy on the field.

“[Winger] Wilfried Zaha is back, so we have a full offensive line-up that we can now deploy for the first time,” Wilmots said. “With that in mind, we have to find the balance and the strategy to upset the Moroccans. That’s what we’ll try to do.

“We’ve gathered our players for medical check-ups,” he continued in regards to a few lingering concerns. “A few have minor injuries and are receiving the attention they need, so we will know what we can do and where to avoid mistakes.”

As for the visiting team, the manager acknowledged Morocco were very experienced and motivated, while pointing out their own weak points.

“They obviously have players of strong technical skill and a solid midfield to back them up,” he said. “But they’ve also got an older team playing its last hand.”

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