Hosts Ivory Coast head coach Jean-Louis Gasset said he wants to turn the pressure on his team into positivity ahead of the AFCON 2023 opening game against Guinea-Bissau on Saturday.
With growing expectations over their chances of winning the tournament, the Ivorians continue to be overwhelming favourites against their modest west African opponents.
Twenty months after taking the position, Gasset—who had never visited the continent before—is tasked with leading his country to victory in the Cup of Nations.
The 70-year-old, who has vast experience in Ligue 1 and was previously Laurent Blanc’s assistant coach for France, said he was enjoying the opportunity and that it had been a quick learning curve but also an interesting one.
“I want to savour the event and appreciate the environment and the experience,” he told a press conference on Friday.
“We feel the pressure, but I don’t think it’s an additional pressure.
“My objective is to turn this pressure into something positive, a drive to give us confidence.
“This pressure has a very good aspect to it and we must take advantage of it and this is the message I’ve been giving my squad.
Gasset also gave injury update of some of his players including Sebastian Haller who will be missing the opening game.
The gaffer also revealed that Haller availability against Super Eagles of Nigeria is on the balance
Gasset stated that forward Nicolas Pepe, who was reinstated to the team after being cut the previous year, had fitness issues as well. Pepe is currently dealing with a knee ailment.
“Pepe played 30 minutes in last Saturday’s friendly (a 5-1 win over Sierra Leone) but is still not fully fit.
“He suffered a knee injury at Trabzonspor last month and we have been bringing him along slowly.”
Speaking on his opponent, Gasset forewarned of the calibre of their rivals, who are 103rd in the FIFA rankings, 54 spots lower than the Ivorians, and who had failed to win a game in the finals.
“They have beaten Nigeria in the qualifiers and we know they have good players especially Mama Balde, who now plays at Lyon.
“We want to start well but with due respect to our opponents, who are very dangerous at counter attacks but we need to dominate the game,” Gasset said.