Salomon Kalou talks pressure for AFCON hosts with Nigeria up next

Salomon Kalou talks pressure for AFCON hosts with Nigeria up next

Former Cote d’Ivoire international Salomon Kalou believes the AFCON hosts winning their opener against Guinea-Bissau at the weekend did more than just set the tone for coach Jean-Louis Gasset.

The 2015 continental champions are among the favourites on home soil but have to first get out of Group A, which includes Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea.

Kalou, who was part of the triumphant side nearly nine years ago, reflected on the perfect start on Saturday.

"I think it was a difficult game, first game, with a lot of pressure. The most important [thing] is to take three points because you have time to prepare for the next game and I think now the pressure has calmed down, compared to the whole movement of organisation, the ceremonies, it's a little bit heavy for the players. So, they needed to win that game and they did and I think they can prepare well for the next game," Kalou said.

While The Elephants collected points in their opening fixture, their next opponents in Nigeria were held to a draw by Equatorial Guinea.

Does Kalou think this puts Cote d’Ivoire in the driving seat?

"No, not necessarily because Nigeria always starts slow, they always start slow in the big competitions. The more they keep going, the more they become dangerous. So, in their second game, they can turn the table around so it's still an open, open group and the next game or the third, we are gonna be the top, top team," Kalou said. 

The former Chelsea striker also discussed which department he thinks Cote d’Ivoire can draw strength from in the coming matches, especially against The Super Eagles when the two giants clash at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan on Thursday.

"For me, our midfield is our strong point for sure, Fofana [Seko], Kessie [Franck], Sangare [Ibrahim], those are the three who can drive the team to the top and I think Fofana stepped up yesterday and I'm quite sure that the three of them will step up the next game."