Ivory Coast will chase a second straight win over Gabon when the teams meet in a 2018 World Cup qualifier at the Stade Bouake on Tuesday evening, kick-off at 7.30pm CAT.
The Elephants stomped their way to a comfortable 3-0 triumph over the Panthers in the teams’ first meeting in Libreville on Saturday night, with a Seydou Doumbia brace and a strike from Max Gradel accounting for the goals.
The result left Ivory Coast at the top of Group C with seven points – two ahead of nearest chasers Morocco, with Gabon a further three points back in third place and Mali sitting at the bottom of the log.
The result was a major relief for new coach Marc Wilmots, whose first two matches in charge of the Elephants were a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Netherlands and a 3-2 loss to Guinea in the qualifiers for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
“We had taken eight goals in the last two games,” said Wilmots in the wake of the win in Libreville.
“There we stood. The defence gave very little opportunity and five [chances] were created in the first period. It was missing the goals. It took a lot of patience, what we got.
“I thank all the players for the investment, for the collective, for what they gave.
“Now, and very clearly, we have nothing, we are nowhere. We won a game and we have another one in 72 hours.
“That is to say that it will be necessary to quickly return to our home base, rest and prepare for the game in Bouake, which will be very important, that’s all.”
For Gabon and coach Jose Antonio Camacho, the defeat left them languishing a full five points adrift of Ivory Coast. They are not mathematically out of the running, but an inability to win at home suggests they will struggle in Bouake.
The Panthers have yet to even net a goal in Group C, and the continued absence of their most gifted marksman – Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – is a major headache.
The match in Bouake will be refereed by Senegalese official Malang Diedhiou. The other Group C match between Mali and Morocco will be held in Bamako on Tuesday night, kick-off at 9pm CAT.