Ahead of Thursday’s crucial Group B tie between Nigeria and host, Cote D’Ivoire in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), Ivorian star, Max Alain Gradel has asserted that he and his team are not afraid of the arrays of stars present in Nigeria’s senior men’s national team.
With contrasting fortunes from their opening match, both teams need to get a positive result to help their resolve to make it out of the group stage.
Most importantly, the Super Eagles need to avoid defeat to have a chance of progressing from the preliminary round which Gradel is confident his team can achieve ahead of their Nigeria counterparts.
“We are Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire), so we are not scared of anyone. We have a good team and players. Of course, we have confidence to have a good game,” Gradel told journalists during the pre-match press conference in Abidjan on Wednesday.
“It was the first time to see fans cheer us on the street on our way to the stadium for the last game. How I wish it happens every two years. I hope we are going to make the fans very happy by winning this trophy because it doesn’t happen often.
“For us as players when the match begins, we don’t focus on what is happening behind us. We know that the culture is that the fans will come en masse to the stadium. We need to be patient with them. It is our duty to remain focused. If we do our jobs, they will be happy.”
He believed that the Elephants are more of a team than individual players and can handle the threats coming their way from the three-time African champions.
“Obviously they’re a solidarity in the group since the coach joined.” He added. “Everything is going well. We need to be positive to get the result. I believe as we go into the competition, the confidence will grow. We live together and enjoy each other company. Now is the time to show it on the field of play.”
“It is a decisive match. In any case, Afcon games are important games. Whether it’s the first or last match, you have to win the three points to get to the next round. We are aware of what we need to do. Obviously, we can not hide. This is the game we need to give our best.” He concluded.
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