Ivory Coast Vs Algeria – Toppling the Elephants, a Mammoth Task?
Ivory Coast Vs Algeria, an encounter relished by all Algerian fans. Ivory Coast, with its star players playing in top clubs all over Europe, is without a doubt Africa’s best Africa team. It is the team with most chances to do great things in this summer’s South Africa World Cup, some say it could even reach the final. The Elephants, the Ivory Coast selection, are a team featuring Europe-based stars like English Premiership duo Drogba of Chelsea and Emmanuel Eboue of Arsenal, then there are Kolo Toure of Manchester City and younger brother Yaya Toure who lines up with European and world champions Barcelona…All the other players are with European clubs.
The Elephants have finished second and fourth in the two previous editions of the biennial African football showcase and the media jury believes unanimously that they will go all the way in Angola this time. One man in particular is very keen on this and it is non other than Didier Drogba for whom that will be his last Africa Cup of Nations. Last month, in a press conference in Abidjan, Didier, 31, told his supporters:
“I think I’m in great form as we head for my last Nations Cup,”.
“From the bottom of my heart, I’m desirous to come back from Angola with a glorious result to give joy to the Ivorian people. To this end, my team-mates and I will be sweating it out as much as we can,” he said.”From the bottom of my heart, I want to return home with a glorious result that will give joy to the Ivorian people. My team-mates and I will be sweating it out as much as we can.”
He currently plays for Chelsea in the English Premier League and is the captain and all-time leading scorer of the Côte d’Ivoire national football team. He has scored more goals for Chelsea than any other foreign player and is currently Chelsea’s 8th highest goal scorer of all time.
In this tournament, Ivory Coast played against Burkina Faso and Ghana (Togo was the 4th team). Like Algerians, they started the tournament with difficulties. Against Burkina Faso, the Elephants only managed a 0-0 draw. They dominated the first half but Burkina Faso was strong on defense and managed to contain the Ivorians.
Ivory Coast secured their first victory of the Africa Cup of Nations in Cabinda.
Gervinho finished off a fluid counter-attacking move after 23 minutes to give Ivory Coast the lead, but they were reduced to 10 men after 55 minutes when Emmanuel Eboue was shown a straight red card for a reckless two-footed tackle. Ivory Coast secured their first victory of the Africa Cup of Nations in Cabinda. Their first win was against Ghana, Gervinho opening the score following a counter attacking move. At 55’, Ivory Coast’s Emmanuel Eboue was shown a straight red card for a reckless two-footed tackle. Still, the Elephants manage to win the match against the young Ghanaian team.
The Elephants’coach is 57-year-old Bosniac Vahid Halilhodzic, he took the reins in 2008 and has since led them to qualification for the World Cup in South Africa. With a squad full of stars, Halilhodzic, rightly fears failure to win the Nations Cup will trigger calls for his dismissal five months before Ivory Coast go to the World Cup, in South Africa.
Their qualification for both the AFCON and the World Cup speaks for itself:. In the first round they finished unbeaten at the top of Group 7, conceding just two goals in six matches. In the second round they did even better as they topped Group E with sixteen points from six matches, scoring 19 goals along the way. Captain Didier Drogba finished as the Elephants’ top goalscorer with six goals, while Sekou Cissé, Bakari Koné and Boubacar Sanogo weighed in with three goals apiece.
Ivory Coast is therefore seen as the clear favourites to lift the African Cup of Nations trophy in 2010. They have the best group of players on the African continent and will be incredibly difficult to beat in a competition they will want to win in order to put their mark on football history at home and continentally, ahead of the big one in June.
So what does it mean to the Algerian team? Ahead of South Africa’s World Cup, it is a great opportunity to test their game against a solid selection, similar in fifa ranking to the American selection (Ivory Coast is ranked 16 and the US is ranked 14).
The first round has been a difficult one so far for the Greens. The fact that important players have not been able to play in the tournament due to injuries has not made it easier: Antar yahia, Mourad Meghni, Lounes Gaouaoui, Saifi, Bezzaz are all out of the competition. Meghni who played half an hour against Angola has not trained yesterday and is unlikely to play against Ivory Coast. Complaining of back pains, Chaouchi has not trained for 3 days, he will probably not play on Sunday either. Mohammed Zemmamouche will therefore be the next goal keeper.
Does it mean that the Greens have a mammoth task to topple Didier Drogba’s Elephants on Sunday? Well, the pressure is all on Ivory Coast and Rabah Saadane and his players have already shown against Mali and Angola that despite all the injured players we can achieve results. Algeria might concede possession but will shape both the game and style of play. A strong tactical sense, a proper defense…and a goal can lead Algeria to victory. Scoring has proved to be a challenge in this tournament but the upside is any Algerian player can eventually score.
Spirit in the Algeria team is high and the players are looking forward to playing the Ivoirians. And I look forward to watching that game.
1, 2 , 3 Viva l’Algerie.
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