Jean-Louis Gasset ready to unleash Cote d Ivoire poster boy Sebastien Haller

Jean-Louis Gasset ready to unleash Cote d Ivoire poster boy Sebastien Haller

Borussia Dortmund striker Sebastien Haller’s face is plastered on just about every billboard here in Cote d’Ivoire, but the locals – and indeed the rest of those who’ve made their way to the AFCON – are yet to see him in action.

The 29-year-old has been recovering from an ankle injury he carried into the tournament, but coach Jean-Louis Gasset was confident he’d be soon be fit and opted to add him to the roster. 

As recent as January last year, the burly forward was finally given the greenlight to rejoin his Dortmund teammates after winning his battle with testicular cancer and undergoing two surgeries as well as chemotherapy. 

When he returned and scored for his club on World Cancer Day in August he said he wanted to send out a message of hope – and Haller’s smile on the posters and television adverts here is infectious. 

Cote d’Ivoire got off to a flyer against Guinea-Bissau, winning 2-0 thanks to goals from Soke Fofana and Jean-Phillipe Krasso to take them top of Group A. 

They face Nigeria this evening at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in a match that will send a huge statement that the hosts mean business should they defeat The Super Eagles, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Equatorial Guinea four days ago at the same venue to pile on the pressure on coach Jose Peseiro. 

Haller could be unleashed. 

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“We are on track with Sebastien Haller,” coach Gasset told journalists. 

“The decision to select him was always based on when he would be available and he joined the rest of the team in training and we are hopeful he will be fit. We will evaluate his progress and make a judgement on his participation for the match at the appropriate time.” 

The nation – and guests – are waiting for the Abidjan darling.