- Getty Images
Egypt and Ivory Coast played more expansive, progressive football in their final group games and it is no surprise the pair progress after giving as good as they got.
Mohamed El Shenawy comes up trumps for Egypt
While the 2-0 win may present a flawed representation of what ensued in Rifu, Egypt had El Shenawy’s shot-stopping to thank for their 2-0 success over Australia which confirmed qualification to the quarter-final.
The Al Ahly shot-stopper made no less than five saves throughout the 90 minutes and he had to stay sharp after half-time where the Aussies went on the offensive.
The North Africans thus finished second in the group on four points, one behind Spain who ended on five points.
Shawky Gharib’s troops finally come alive at the Games
Even though their goalkeeper had a huge part to play in the 2-0 success, the young Pharaohs showcased significantly more attacking threat against Australia than they’d managed in their opening two fixtures against Spain and Argentina.
They dominated possession especially in the first half, out-shooting their opponents 8-1 and having 60 percent of the ball.
Despite Australia’s second-half resurgence, the Africans still had a plan when they won back possession and created the game’s finest openings after the break.
It was pleasing to see Gharib’s team play front-foot football following previously dreary performances before Wednesday.
Eric Bailly, Franck Kessie lead by example
Ivory Coast needed a huge performance against Germany to progress and they secured the much-needed point to end second behind Brazil in Group D.
They owed much to the showings of two of their over-age players, Bailly and Kessie, who thrived against the European nation.
The Manchester United centre-back gave everything on the pitch and knew when to keep possession or clear from danger.
In midfield, the AC Milan star was near unplayable when he had possession, completing both attempted dribbles and fashioning three shooting opportunities in 90 minutes.
If the West African nation are to progress beyond the last eight, they’ll need their pair of experienced heads to thrive against Spain.
- Getty Images
Soualiho Haidara desperately needs goals from somewhere
Ivory Coast’s dearth of goals has been a worry so far in Tokyo, and Wednesday’s 1-1 draw highlighted their final-third shortcomings.
Interestingly, the Little Elephants were more positive against Germany — their 11 shots was only three short of total attempts from matches against Saudi Arabia (nine) and Brazil (five) — but it didn’t translate into goals for the Ivorians.
Kessie remains the only outfield player to find the back of the net after the group phase, with two own goals from opponents taking the nation’s total to three.
This is unsustainable and it may come to bite Haidara and his team in the back in the knockout stages.
Teboho Mokoena deserves commendation despite South Africa thrashing
The defensive midfielder made an error for one of Mexico’s three goals in the 3-0 thrashing, but it doesn’t dampen an otherwise impressive showing in Sapporo.
Mokoena rarely came out second-best in his duels — winning 11 of 13 in total — completed all three dribbles and even got stuck in where necessary.
His vast range of passing was also on show against the Mexicans and he deserved better than losing 3-0 after an overall encouraging performance for Amaglug-glug.