World Cup Play-Offs: Senegal v Ivory Coast


Whilst some fairly extreme results in other matches of this African World Cup qualifiers make this tie comparably on a knife-edge, Senegal’s chances getting to the World Cup finals in Brazil are not looking overly positive at this point. Trailing 3-1 from the first leg in Abidjan, their hope will lie in the Papiss Cisse’s away goal scored late on to take them over the line to Brazil, as it very much changes the balance of things in this upcoming tie on Saturday in Casablanca.

Arguably some tactical naivety from Senegal coach Alain Giresse was the downfall of his side in the first leg, as his decision to go with three up front in Cisse, Sow and N’Doye very much backfired, as Les Elephant’s wingers took full advantage of Senegal’s exposed full-backs that lacked midfield cover to help them out. Both in-form at club level, Gervinho and Salomon Kalou took full advantage, with the latter getting on the scoresheet. However, such positive tactics may be necessary if Giresse’s side are to overcome the deficit they find themselves the wrong side of on Saturday, with the aforementioned Cisse goal from the first leg meaning that a 2-0 victory will be enough to see them through. It is an interesting dilemma Giresse finds himself in however, as conceding in Casablanca would all but end their hopes of qualifying due to the almost insurmountable number of goals they would have to score.

I will to be interesting the personnel they choose to go with in defence. After a thoroughly unconvincing performance from several of their backline, with Lamine Gassama coming in for a lot of criticism in particular, with the possibility of Issa Cissokho coming in to replace him. Furthermore, whether they choose to employ a more creative force in one of the front-three positions too is a point of interest, with Henri Saivet mixing things up a bit when he came on in the first leg, and may offer something different to those who started previously.

As for the away side, defence is most certainly on the agenda. Stopping Senegal scoring and possibly hitting them on the counter attack would seem like a solid approach for Lamouchi’s men to take, though sitting back is hardly their forte with the players available. As well as this, the tendency for them to capitulate in the big matches means that this match may perhaps be more open than first thought.

Ivory Coast will be missing Gervinho, who remains injured after hurting himself for Roma shortly after coming back from international duty, so is likely to be replaced by the likes of Max Gradel  – though Gradel’s lack of game time for St. Etienne doesn’tmake him an overly ideal replacement.  It would seem that the partnership of Sol Bamba and Didier Zokora is likely to continue from the first leg with Kolo Toure still out, and is unlikely to change considering Lamouchi’s obsession with playing a defensive midfielder in central defence.

It would nevertheless seem that Ivory Coast have the natural advantage in this game. Senegal’s relative ineffectiveness at breaking down the opposition defence despite the plethora of forward on the field bodes well for the away side should they employ the same tactics in this game, and is likely that we will see Ivory Coast take another shot at the World Cup in Brazil 2014.

Possible line-ups:

Senegal: Coundoul; Kouyate, Sane, Cissokho, Souare; N’Diaye, Gueye, Diame; Saivet, N’Doye, Cisse.

Ivory Coast: Barry; Aurier, Zokora, Bamba, Boka; Romaric, Gosso Gosso, Toure; Kalou, Gradel, Drogba.

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