Brilliant Pitch ConditionIt's not everyday you see a brilliant and well taken care of pitch, especially compared to some of the ones on display in England. But the Nuevo Estadio de Malabo in Equatorial Guinea's capital, Malabo, should receive acknowledgement for the care that has been put into it.
Slow StartThe 1st game started off relatively slowly, with Ivory Coast dominating possession and Sudan quite happy to let them have the ball. The Ivorians failed to show any penetration in the final third and the Sudanese defence was happy enough to intercept play. However the Sudanese players were bereft of ideas when the ball was in their possession and more often than not they attempted a long ball, which was ineffective and allowed the Ivory Coast players to recycle possession from the back. The frustration of Ivory Coasts inability to break down the Sudanese defence began to manifest itself in several long range efforts from the likes of Drogba and Gervinho as the half wore on.
Breakthrough & Sudan Response
Then came the salvation, from none other than the Ivorian captain, Didier Drogba; he found himself on the end of Salomon Kalou’s cross, the Chelsea team mates combined to open the scoring. This breathed life into the tie and Sudan came roaring back towards the end of the half, having two solid chances in quick succession. The latter of which saw Boubaccar tipping Eltaib Mudather’s shot onto the bar. This trend continued into the second half, with Sudan applying early pressure, and utilising the flanks well. Interspersed were some Ivory Coast counter attacks which threatened to kill the game off.
Game Fizzles Out
As the game wore on the Sudanese players began to tire and lose concentration, they were sloppier in possession and tried to thread passes through the middle instead of using their wide players. And so the game drifted until FT. A solid effort by a resilient Sudan side who were initially set up to frustrate Ivory Coast, but Ivory Coast prevailing in the end. Early days yet, but the big boys haven’t started quick out of the traps at this tournament.
Slow Starts Translate Into Solid Finishes
At least in the case of the Burkina Faso vs Angola match. The game was, admittedly, dire in the first half. Numerous chances went astray as both teams were over-cautious and remained risk-averse.
Once the whistle blew to initiate the 2nd half, that’s when things started to get more interesting. Angola began to whip in crosses which the Burkina Faso defence were unable to deal with, allowing Angola’s Mateus to pick up the loose ball at the end of the cross, have time and space to run inside the box and finely place a sweet shot past the goalkeeper, all of this only after 47 minutes.
It wasn’t long before Burkina Faso struck back and what a strike it was, with Alain Traore seizing the opportunity to take a free-kick after 56 minutes, perfectly curling the ball round a 5-man Angola wall. Not much Carlos Fernandes between the sticks could do about it.
Burkina Faso now had momentum and drive to score another goal, winning numerous corners but converting none. They were punished for their inaccuracies when Munucho smashed in a peach of a finish on the 67 minute mark, which Burkina Faso keeper Diakite could not have stopped. What a way to grab his 15th international goal.
Target Practice For Wingers Is Desperately Needed
I was a little bit perplexed at the amount of crosses Burkina Faso had amassed, yet nobody was able to get a head on the end of them. The first half showed a lot of brilliance Pitroupau down the left side, but none of the crosses found a head. Even with the abundance of corners they gained after Traore’s free-kick, nobody could get on the end of those scrumptious crosses. Then, on the 81 minute mark, Dagano whips in a marvelous cross into the box, which finally finds a head, only for the ball to safely land in the Angolan keeper’s grasps. If Burkina Faso are going to utilise their strengths down the flanks, they at least need to practice their crossing.
Dropping Like Flies?
We see this all the time in almost every single football competition: a team that is a goal up decides to kill as much time as possible by falling to the floor at any moment they can. Burkina Faso initiate an attack in the last 10 minutes that involved throwing the kitchen sink at Angola, but Angola players seemed to seek assistance after each wave of attacks. The commentator rightly predicted 6 minutes of extra time minimum, but there was at least double the amount of time wasted. Sadly, not everyone likes to see large numbers of extra time added on the board.