Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard has praised upcoming opponents Mali as ‘one of the best African teams’.
The Elephants face the Eagles in their second Group D Africa Cup of Nations match in Malabo on Saturday night, looking to improve their performance from the 1-1 draw with Guinea on Tuesday.
“Against Guinea we were okay in the first half. Except for the goal we gave them, they didn’t shoot on goal. But our problem is that we put pressure at 10km/h, which is not enough. Against Mali, we need to up our rhythm. It is up to us to go and get a win to put ourselves in a good position,” said Renard at a pre-match press conference.
The Frenchman, who led Zambia to AFCON glory in 2012, heaped praise on Mali but emphasises that his side has what it takes to defeat the bronze medal winners from the last two continental tournaments.
“When you are facing the two-time bronze medallist of the last two editions of the AFCON, you know what to expect. Mali are one of the best African teams, with their emblematic skipper Seydou Keita. Côte d’Ivoire have what it takes to handle the situation. With Doumbia, Bony, Gradel and Tallo we have the weapons to defeat Mali.
“We are in a group with a busy schedule ahead. We play Mali now and then Cameroon. Those games will allow us to know if we deserve to qualify.”
Renard added that he expects more from reigning African Player of the Year, Yaya Toure.
“We haven’t seen the best of Yaya Toure against Guinea. Now, it is up to him to carry the team. He wears the armband, he has the responsibility to lead his teammates towards the goal. It is for him to set an example and give more than what he did in the first game.”
Kick-off at Nuevo Estadio de Malabo is at 18h00 CAT.