Thursday Jun 02, 2022. 13:00
Ivory Coast will begin their preparations as 2023 Africa Cup of Nations hosts with a home encounter against Zambia at the Stade de Yamoussoukro on Friday.
Kick-off is at 9pm CAT (SA, GMT+2)
The Elephants are staging the competition for the second time, having finished fifth in 1984 as the host nation previously.
Cote d’Ivoire had a tough build-up to the qualifying campaign after losing 2-1 to France and 3-0 to England in friendlies during the international break in March.
Jean-Louis Gasset takes charge of the national team for the first time as the successor to Patrice Beaumelle, whose contract was not renewed following his failure to guide them to the 2022 World Cup.
The two-time African champions failed to make it further than the round of 16 at AFCON 2021 under Beaumelle’s guidance following their elimination at the hands of Egypt on penalties.
However, Gasset must do without Maxwell Cornet, Nicolas Pepe, Odilon Kossounou, Eric Bailly and Hassane Kamara for his first match at the helm.
“The new coach, Jean Louis Gasset, basically has his whole world – 21 players present and all operational for the match,” the Ivorian Football Federation said in a statement on Facebook.
“It is necessary to note that some absent in case of injury or illness: Maxwell Cornet, Nicolas Pepe, Odilon Kossonou, Eric Bailly. Hassane Kamara, as for him, is absent for a school examination.”
The Copper Bullets failed to qualify for the last three editions of AFCON and didn’t get past the group stages in 2013 and 2015 following their shock maiden title triumph in 2012 when they defeated the Ivorians in the final.
Aljosa Asanovic’s side warmed up for the qualifiers with three friendlies in March. They lost 3-1 to Iraq and then beat Congo by the same scoreline before being beaten 2-1 by Benin.
Asanovic has made a plea to Zambian supporters to have faith in his players despite acknowledging they are the underdogs in this Group H opener.
“Ivory Coast is a great team, if you have players like [Wilfried] Zaha, Eric Bailly and [Sebastien] Haller, it is a great team, but if I don’t believe in my team, why am I going there (to Ivory Coast)? I believe so much in my team and you also need to believe in this team,” the Croatian tactician said.
“Yes, we have respect, we are playing against a great team, in fact the favourites in our group, but come on Zambians, believe in us, believe in Patson [Daka], believe in Enock [Mwepu], believe in Kelvin [Kampamba].”