Ivory Coast, one of the tournament’s favourites, take on familiar neighbours Burkina Faso in a Group B opener whose intensity might be dampened by the Togolese tragedy.
Ivory Coast Taking Much Care To Bag a Three-Point Win
If any lessons have been learnt by the Ivorian national team, it is concentration and cool-headedness. ‘No match is won in advance, handle every opponent with seriousness, no matter their size,’ is the team’s current mantra, which has sunk down and now shows in the players attitude.
Composed of high calibre of players drawn from Europe’s top leagues, the Elephants have pulled wide attraction in recent years across Africa and beyond, but the continuous absence of a continental crown keeps stunning many – outsiders and insiders.
Current coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, has been gradually fixing what he felt was wrong with the team – identified as insufficient mental strength against big teams and over-confidence against low teams.
Some improvements have come off along the way, perceivable at the World Cup / Nations Cup qualifiers. And recently, the two test matches in Tanzania against the Taifa Stars (0-1) and Rwanda’s Amavubi (0-2), revealed how far the Elephants have come in taking smaller team seriously.
The draw for the competition aligns four West African teams in a Group B challenge sooner tagged as group of death. But with the recent development concerning the Togolese national team and their less probable participation in the tournament, the Ivory Coast might only have Ghana as a headache if they would surely ride on the Stallions of Burkina Faso.
It is still not yet clear how this group will be rearranged if Togo eventually pull out.
Local supporters at Cabinda may likely be seduced to chant for the Elephants because of the household names the team will be showcasing.
Besides, the Ivorians will be adopting watchfulness more than adventuring for too many goals. This is where the likes of Kolo Toure of Manchester City, Arsenal FC’s Eboue Emmanuel and Demel Guy-Roland of Hamburger SV will strive to keep the house from being burgled. The defence will be foolproof against conceding careless goals.
However, perturbing strikes from Chelsea’s Salomon Kalou and Keita Kader of Galatasaray SK will be essential to hinder the Burkinabé from mounting in order not to render their rearguard too porous.
While more focus will be on the Ivory Coast, to assess their latest presentation, the team will be more preoccupied getting the job done – obtain three points from the encounter no matter the score. And Burkina Faso, having nothing to loose or gain against giant Ivorians, will throw in their all, and likely erect irritant hurdles for the determined Elephants.
Burkina Faso Coming To Show They Worth Their Qualification
Burkina Faso, attending their 7th African Cup of Nations, know they will confront big teams in Angola, and this scares them not. If they could trounce teams like Malawi and Guinea home and away during the qualifiers and take 12 precious points behind Ivory Coast’s 16, then there is enough confidence to vie in the continental soccer show.
The Stallions’ Portuguese coach Paulo Jorge Duarte is a very technical trainer who has a great vision for the country’s football and who has instilled much confidence in the team. Flying with his boys to Portugal for a refined preparation before the AFCON, shows how ready Duarte is to either create a surprise or an impression during their sojourn in Angola.
And, being one of the first teams of Group B to arrive in Cabinda, Burkina Faso seem athirst to see the event kick-start.
Finding themselves alongside three geographical neighbours: Ivory Coast, Togo and Ghana, in Group B, is no big deal for the Burkinabé because they have played against these sides time without number. No harm from these favourites of the group might be graver than what the Burkinabé have incurred in the past.
The Stallions might not pull good support from local fans, which they might not be counting on as well, but a possible hard game against the Elephants could sway support their way.
Players like Youssouf Koné of CFR, Romanian and Moumouni Dagano of Al Khor, Qatar are capable of stabbing the Elephants in the back before they know it. Patrick Zoundi of Fortuna Düsseldorf could slip off the marking of Kolo Toure and Boka Arthur of VFB Stuttgart.
Defenders like Bakary Koné of Guingamp and Ibrahim Gnanou of Alania Vla, Russia, will have to be in their good day to fend off the Ivorian missiles. However, as much of the tactics will likely be defending and counterattacking, midfielders like Charles Kaboré of Marseille, Jonathan Pitroipa of Hambourg and Auxerre’s Sibiri Alain Traoré will fall back to concentrate on the rearguard while plotting runaway occasions.
Burkina Faso will go into this game with lesser pressure unlike the Elephants. All eyes won’t be on the Stallions, which might create room for some cool inspiration to do good things.
Ivory Coast squad is sound and complete. And reports say the spirit with which the team come this time around is high, mature and far-seeing. Beside Romaric, who has been the midfield powerhouse, no absentees have been announced. And the rumours saying the team’s N° 10 hole is still wide open (because of Romaric’s dropout) have been dissipated by the coach who assures that his replacement is as good.
Goalkeepers: Barry Boubacar (KSC Lokeren OV, Belgium), Zogbo Aristide Benoit (Maccabi Netanya FC, Israel), Angban Atchouailou Vincent de Paul (Asec Mimosas, Ivory Coast.)
Defenders: Eboue Emmanuel (Arsenal FC, England), Demel Guy-Roland (Hamburger SV, Germany), Tiene Siaka (Valenciennes FC, France), Boka Etienne Arthur (VfB Stuttgart, Germany), Toure Kolo Abib (Manchester city, England), Meite Abdoulaye (West Bromwich Albion FC, England), Bamba Souleman (Hibernian FC, Scotland), Angoua Brou Benjamin (Kispest Honved, Hungary)
Midfielders:Toure Yaya Gnegneri (FC Barcelona, Spain), Zokora Didier (FC Seville, Spain), Fae Emerse (OGC Nice, France), Kone Kouamatien Emmanuel (FC Curtea Arges, Romania) Gosso Gosso Jean-Jacques (AS Monaco, France), Tiote Cheik Ismael (FC Twente, Holland)
Forwards: Kone Bakari (O. Marseille, France), Keita Abdul Kader (Galatasaray SK, Turkey), Yao Kouassi Gervais (LOSC Lille Metropole, France), Kalou Salomon (Chelsea FC, England), Drogba Didier (Chelsea FC, England), Aruna Dindane (Portsmouth FC, England)
Germany-based striker Aristide Bancé rejected invitation from coach Douarte to join the team. Reports suggest the 25-year-old Mainz forward is angry with the coach for failing to watch him at his Germany side throughout the season.
Goalkeepers: Daouda Diakite (Mokawloo Al-Arab, Egypt), Germain Sanou (Saint-Étienne, France), Adama Sawadogo (ASFA-Y, Burkina)
Defenders: Ibrahim Gnanou (Alania Vladiskavkaz, Russia), Bakary Koné (Guingamp, France), Paul Koulibaly (Al Ittihiad Tripoli, Libya), Moussa Ouattara (Kaiserslautern, Germany), Madi Panandétiguir (Leiria, Portugal), Mamadou Tall (Leiria, Portugal)
Midfielders: Charles Kaboré (Marseille, France), Mahamoudou Keré (Charleroi, Belgium), Mohamed Koffi (Petrojet, Egypt), Aziz Nikiéma (Qingdao Jonoon, China), Jonathan Pitroipa (Hambourg, Germany), Florent Rouamba (Sheriff Tiraspol, Moldova), Sibiri Alain Traoré (Auxerre, France)
Forwards: Habib Bamogo (OGC Nice, France), Moumouni Dagano (Al Khor, Qatar), Youssouf Koné (CFR Cluj, Romania), Youssouf Ouattara (Leiria, Portugal), Narcisse Yaméogo (Migan, Azerbaijan), Patrick Zoundi (Fortuna Düsseldorf, Germany).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Didier Drogba, 31, African Footballer in 2006 and Chelsea’s top scorer, deems Angola 2010 as probably his last major national assignment. And so, his determination to lift the trophy is very high. He is a talented striker with unpredictable capabilities at the goalmouth. Drogba can stay invisible all through a game and resurge to do havoc at the last minute. He currently captains the Elephants and has been instrumental in strengthening the team’s mental disposition alongside the coach.
Rising star Yao Kouassi Gervais or Gervinho is a 22-year old midfielder and winger who has successfully sealed his place in the star-studded Ivorian team. The French Ligue 1 top scorer with Lille OSC is an elusive man on the pitch who easily leaks past blocks of defence to score goals. Gervinho, whom the coach is considering as a major striker of the team after Drogba, is a man to watch in this game and during the tournament.
Moumouni Dagano is a name synonymous with the Stallions for some years now. The 28-year-old striker plays for Khor in Qatar and is a very terrible goal hunter. Ivory Coast’s rearguard know they have a work to do in checking this man. He was Africa’s top scorer in the World Cup / Nations Cup qualifiers with a total of 12 goals, surpassing Drogba and Samuel Eto’o.
Youssouf Koné is another man to watch. The 27-year-old forward who now plays with CFR Cluj, Romania, scored 10 goals in the 2007 / 08 UEFA Champions League matches with his former Norwegian club Rosenborg BallKlub, where he also netted a total of 15 goals between 2006 and the summer of 2008 before his transfer to Romania. He is a fast player with a solid physical condition – thanks to his 6 foot 5 height.
Burkina Faso come into this game with less pressure, and so will be at ease to display their worth irrespective of the challenge in face; whereas all eyes will be on the Ivory Coast, and so no taking chances. The Ivorians will strive to watch their back more, rather than build a mountain of goals. The outcome of this match will rest more on experience, which goes in favour of Ivory Coast.
Ivory Coast 3-1 Burkina Faso
Kingsley Kobo, Goal.com