By Paul Bassey
The captain of the local Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire, Goua Mahan Mark has called on Ivorians to come out in large numbers today to support them against Nigeria.
He made the call at the team’s last media parley before the final crunch that will determine which team will qualify for next year’s final competition to be held in South Africa.
Asked whether he believed his team has a chance of qualifying, Mark said the one goal scored at away was vital and that if they get the type of support the Eagles got in Kaduna, then they would have themselves to blame if they do not score three goals and qualify.
”The key is for us to put pressure on them and if we can score early, may be two before half time, then we will certainly qualify,” he said.
To guarantee this the match which will be held in the 2,800 capacity Robert Champroux Stadium in Marcory has been declared free of any gate takings and there are fears already that the stadium will be over packed, more so when the match will not be televised.
Out of this number, only 300 will be reserved for Nigerians and the Ivorians believe that in an atmosphere of a hundred percent support for ninety minutes they will triumph.
However, there also exist some pockets of Ivorians who believe that the match has been won and lost.Yao Norbert, a fan of Daniel Amokachi says these Elephants are “ fake” that they do not know them. “We only heard about them after they had gone to Nigeria and lost. I don’t think they can score three goals without the Nigerians scoring any” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
On the part of Nigerians, Coach Stephen Keshi said Friday at the team’s Ibiss Hotel Plateau residence that he has told his players to forget the first leg.
”For us the first leg does not exist. We have forgotten the scores. Tomorrow (today) we are starting afresh and that means we have to win to qualify,” he said.
Will he defend? Does he see the Ivorians coming back? He said football is funny but that the boys he has in camp are determined and focused. That they are aware Nigeria has not qualified for this competition before, so they are ready to make history for themselves and for their country.
For those who are colour conscious, the Nigerians will step out in green jerseys with the Ivorians wearing their traditional orange.
Kick off 4.30pm Nigerian time.