Cote d’Ivoire/Morocco: The Elephants Have an Afcon Date With Destiny

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Title holders Cote d’Ivoire face a date with destiny as they seek to sneak into the quarterfinals of the African Nations Cup with victory over Group C rivals Morocco in Oyem on Tuesday.

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The Elephants must win to reach the knockout stages or face the embarrassment of a first round exit in the defence of the title they won two years ago in Equatorial Guinea.

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But they have a number of challenges going into the match – and not just related to their scratchy form.

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Morocco coach Herve Renard was in charge of the Ivorians two years ago as he claimed his second African title after also winning with Zambia in 2012. As someone who knows all too well the strengths and weaknesses of the west African side, and the culture within the team, he is the perfect man to plot their downfall.

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The Frenchman stands on the brink of leading Morocco to the quarterfinals for only the second time in their last eight tournament appearances, which would be another big tick on his impressive CV.

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These two sides have some recent history – they drew 0-0 in Morocco in a World Cup qualifier in November, and a similar result would be just the ticket for Renard, though he admits he will take no pleasure in knocking The Elephants out of the competition.

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“I try to forget, because when I saw all the Ivorians before our World Cup qualifier two months ago, it was very emotional for me,” he said.

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“We have to fight and play to win. We have to be strong.

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“This is an opponent like any other. We knew when the draw was made that this match would be decisive for our qualification [for the quarterfinals]. This is the most difficult game of the three, we’ll have to be very strong.

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“In 2015 [with Côte d’Ivoire], I ended up in the same situation with two draws and we won 1-0 against Cameroon.”

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Morocco lost their opener 1-0 to DR Congo despite dominating the chances, but bounced back to thump Togo 3-1 despite going a goal down early on.

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Cote d’Ivoire have not impressed in draws with Togo (0-0) and DR Congo (2-2) but coach Michel Dussuyer says there is no panic in the camp.

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“We still have our destiny in our own hands, that is the important thing,” he said. “Everything will be decided in the final round of games.”

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Ivorian captain Serey Die says the players are determined to turn their tournament around.

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“All matches are difficult. All teams playing against us are playing for their lives. It’s clear we made two draws, that was our destiny. We must recover well and get back to work. We’ll see against Morocco,” he said.

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