A heavyweight clash is set for the 2023 African Cup of Nations round of 16 as hosts, Côte d’Ivoire, take on defending champion, Senegal.
After a disappointing group stage, the Ivorians are eager to redeem themselves on Monday (today) against their highly-rated opponents.
“We prepared well for the Senegal match, and we will enter the match with confidence, a lot of confidence. The players are motivated,” said Côte d’Ivoire’s coach, Faye Emers.
“I know the group well, and I have been with them for a year and a half. The players know what to expect from them in the Senegal match. We will enter the match with good confidence,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senegal won Group B undefeated under manager Aliou Cisse. “Our team is going through a good period after three matches, where we achieved good results in the group stage, and I am satisfied with it,” Cisse said.
“We are in a good state to focus. The statistics are there, and I cannot change the past and the results. We are in the present, and we will remain focused,” he added.
The Elephants of Côte d’Ivoire want to make amends after recent defeats.
“We have worked well since I came to head the national team. Côte d’Ivoire will remain Côte d’Ivoire even though we did not perform well in the group stage. If we ask Senegal which team, they want to face in the last 16, they will choose another team that occupied the best third place other than Côte d’Ivoire,” Emers said.
Meanwhile, Ivorian midfielder Jean-Michael Seri agreed, adding, “When you are competitive, you want to win the continental title, especially when you host the competition.
“In this competition, anything can happen. Things have now passed, and we must look into the future, where the match against Senegal awaits us.
“I do not want to talk about what happened. There will be a new competition within this competition in the knockout round, and we want to progress with the new coach, who is also a big brother to us.”
The Teranga Lions of Senegal are aware of a motivated opponent on home soil. “We worked well this week. We must remain focused on the way we play in defense and attack. We will remain focused on ourselves in the match, and our goal remains to win,” said Senegal defender Moussa Nyakhate.
“The Côte d’Ivoire national team is good, and they have players with good potential, and we respect them a lot,” he added.
He, however, noted that “the atmosphere is great within the Senegalese team. Everyone is in good condition. We have a wonderful group of veterans who are mentoring the young players.”
Both teams recognise the high stakes. “We are now in the eighth final, against a good Côte d’Ivoire team. We will play a very difficult match. If we win, we will continue the adventure, and if we lose, we will return home,” Cisse said, downplaying his team’s favoured status.
He added, “We qualified with 9 points and the opponent with 3 points; this does not matter. Now a new competition has begun. Côte d’Ivoire remains a major team in Africa, they have good players.
“The defeat in their last two matches remains just an accident, they will show another performance in front of their fans.”
With quarterfinals places up for grabs, the Ivorians are out to cause an upset to the defending champions in this AFCON last-16 battle.
Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire will clash on Monday (today), January 29, at the Charles Konan Bani Stadium, Yamoussoukro, 9pm (Nigerian time).