AFCON hosts Ivory Coast without Haller for opening game

Africa Cup of Nations hosts Ivory Coast will go into the opening game of the tournament on Saturday against Guinea-Bissau without Sebastien Haller as their star striker recovers from injury.

AFP , Friday 12 Jan 2024,
 Jean-Louis Gasset
Ivory Coast coach Jean-Louis Gasset spoke to reporters in Abidjan on Friday ahead of the start of the Africa Cup of Nations . AFP


The 29-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward, who came off in his club's last game in the German Bundesliga on December 19, has been struggling with an ankle problem.

Elephants coach Jean-Louis Gasset confirmed Haller will not play in the Group A curtain-raiser at Abidjan's Ebimpe Olympic Stadium but suggested there was some hope he would return to face Nigeria on January 18.

"Tomorrow he will not be in the squad, for sure, but we have five days after that before the next game and we will see how he gets on," Gasset told reporters in Abidjan on Friday.

Haller has endured a difficult season with Dortmund, for whom he has not scored since netting in a German Cup tie against lower-league opposition in August.

However, a fit Haller would likely lead the line for the host nation at the AFCON as Ivory Coast chase a third continental title.

Brighton and Hove Albion winger Simon Adingra is also set to miss out against Guinea-Bissau with a muscle injury and it remains to be seen when he will be able to feature.

"Yesterday they had scans to see how they are and the doctor was delighted,” Gasset insisted when asked about his two injured attackers.

"We will see when they can return but both are on course."

Equatorial Guinea complete Group A, from which Ivory Coast are expected to progress without too many problems with Gasset hoping they thrive under the pressure of playing at home.

"We feel the expectation every day but we just need to live with it," said the 70-year-old Frenchman, a former assistant coach to Laurent Blanc at Paris Saint-Germain and the France national team.

"My job is to transform the pressure into something positive, to make sure that gives the players strength and confidence."

Guinea-Bissau have never won a game in three previous appearances at the AFCON but did beat Nigeria away during qualifying.

"There are no small teams anymore," insisted Gasset.

"The aim is to get off to a good start but we need to make sure we respect the opposition."

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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