World Cup 2026 (Q) - Côte d'Ivoire: Midfielders have their say

Karim Konaté buteur et passeur contre les Seychelles
World Cup 2026 (Q) - Côte d'Ivoire: Midfielders have their say

Seko Fofana, Ibrahim Sangaré and Franck Kessié are currently making the Côte d'Ivoire Eléphants very happy. Facing the Seychelles on Friday November 17 in Ebimpé, and Gambia on November 20 in Dar Es Salam, this magical trio should be at the helm once again.

In friendly matches against Morocco and South Africa in October 2023, the Côte d'Ivoire national team rose to the occasion thanks to a collective performance but partly in midfield. For the first time in a year, coach Jean-Louis had all his men. He relied on an infernal trio who acted as an impenetrable wall in midfield, routing the Moroccan midfield and then the South African. The result was a one-all scoreline in each of the two matches, a real test for the host country of the AFCON 2023.

The strong men in the middle

Recovery, control, recovery and mastery, the Elephants of Côte d'Ivoire responded favorably against Morocco in a friendly match this Saturday, October 14, 2023. In their return to the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Jean-Louis Gasset's men handled the encounter well against the best African nation of the moment. Thanks to a compact midfield featuring Seko Fofana, Ibrahim Sangaré and Franck Kessié, the midfield battle ended in the Orange's favor. A victory acknowledged by their opponents after the match.

"We lost the midfield battle throughout the match. They had the chance to kill us off, but they didn't. In the end, we came back to score," admitted Moroccan coach Walid Regragui at the end of the match. Faced with South Africa on October 17, the Ivorian midfielder empire's three rocks suffered, but nonetheless held their own against the lively Mokhoena, Sithole and Zwane. Seko's percussion, Kessié's vision and Ibrahim Sangaré's physical presence showed that Gasset has three quality midfielders at his disposal.

Seko Fofana's return to form

Absent from the Elephants' squad since November 2022, for various reasons, Seko Fofana made his return to Gasset's starting line-up on Saturday October 14. Lauded by some and criticized by others, the midfielder from Al-Nassr (Saudi Arabia) was eagerly awaited in the Elephants' midfield. He was imposing in the match against the Atlas Lions.In addition to setting up Haller's goal in the 47th minute, Seko reigned supreme in the heart of the game, collecting six (6) balls and firing two (2) shots. "Seko set the tempo for the match.I think he played a very good game.Côte d'Ivoire without Seko is not the same as with him," said the Pachyderms' coach in a press conference.

The same was true of Bafana Bafana, where the former Lens captain was one of the spearheads of the 1992 and 2015 African Champions. Even the crowd at the stadium came out in force to praise the performance of the former san et or, chanting his name in the 48th minute of the match. "We completely dominated the match. It's encouraging for the future. I'm ready for the AFCON. Today, the reality is that I'm here, and I'm happy to be enjoying myself in front of all the people who support us," the midfielder said at the end of the match.

Sangaré and Kessié solid

Ibrahim Sangaré's fine performances for the Elephants are becoming a habit for the Ivorians. Gasset's most-used player, the child from Koumassi, was once again influential in midfield. Against Walid Regragui's men, he collected four (4) balls and contributed his physical strength to the stability of his side's play. Against Hugo Broos' men, his stats were slightly down. However, with Seko and Kessié alternating as playmakers, Sangaré got the job done.The team's top scorer (7 goals) didn't score, but he was invaluable in the fight. Franck Kessié was also sublime during this friendly match. The Al Ahli player lost three balls and caused three fouls against Hakimi and his team-mates, but he was radiant. Against the South Africans, he was on hand for the equaliser, switching from boos to applause.As a relay player or attacking midfielder in certain sequences, he was unstoppable. Alongside these three, former Nice man Jean Michaël Séri and young Bournemouth midfielder Hamed Traoré are perfect replacements.

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