African Cup of Nations 2012: Ivory Coast Winning Ugly

Winning ugly

Ivory Coast have won two of their games ‘unconvincingly’, to those who are not convinced, but the name of the game is 3 points and they have qualified for the knockout stages.  Group matches can often be tedious affairs but this was an open with Ivory Coast allowed to show the ruthlessness of the quality they have on paper. They showed little ruthlessness however, there was a lack of a cutting edge  and many of the chances created came to nothing, mainly thanks to the wasteful finishing of Gervinho. The second goal was an own goal, Burkina Faso centre-back Bakary Kone guiding a cross by Arthur Boka into his own net. Much of the ‘boring’ football the Ivory Coast are playing can be attributed to coach Francois Zahoui’s insistence for them to be defensively solid. “We know that a team with a good defence can go far in the Nations Cup,” said Zahoui. “It was good to complete our second game without conceding a goal.”

The suspected hamstring injury to Salomon Kalou could be a bitter blow, the Chelsea striker is a seasoned performer for the Elephants at Africa Cup of Nations (so seasoned that I captained him in the Cup of Nations fantasy league).  His replacement Max Gradel showed signs that he won’t be missed too much, with a lively cameo off the bench.

Burkina Faso target right-back spot

The Burkinabes targeted a lot of their attack down the left – Ivory Coast’s right-back slot. This tactic made complete sense as the Ivory Coast were playing a makeshift right-back, Jean-Jacques Gosso, a player who is usually deployed as a defensive midfielder. Burkina Faso had fun but Gosso at times also showed the combative defending that may have convinced Francois Zahoui to play him in a foreign position. With Emmanuel Eboue scheduled to be back soon, Gosso is unlikely to play in that position for much longer –  which would come as a relief as against a side with better finishes he may become costly.

Gervinho short of confidence

The foreheaded-dreadlocked winger seems to have caught the Arsenal bug that Marouane Chamakh also has. He looks a shadow of the player he was, his shortness in confidence evident throughout this game as simple passes went astray and his finishing left a lot to be desired for.

In contrast, the Stallions are going home but Alain Traore, who was widely tipped to shine at this tournament, certainly hasn’t done his credentials any harm. The Auxerre man took the game to the Ivory Coast after half time, shooting on sight at every possible opportunity as the Stalions applied the pressure

Ivory Coast will reach the final at least

Tougher tests may lay ahead for the Elephants, but with the exit of Senegal their path to the semi-final is almost assured. It could very well be that the Ivory Coast won’t even have to step up into second gear to win this tournament. A major question mark still stands over how they can utilise Yaya Toure, with the midfield loitering all over the midfield, not a good strategy for a player who appears to tire in the final stages of matches – he was taken off in the final 10 minutes yesterday.

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About James Eugene (33 Articles)
Interested in many (maybe too many) things. Football, Politics and Emerging & Frontier Markets, to name a few. Twitter: @James_Eugene

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