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In the first match of the group B of this year’s African Nation’s Cup, the Ivory Coast played Sudan. The “Elephants” didn’t want to suffer the same fate as Senegal the evening before when these lost against the underdogs from Zambia. The Ivorians did want 3 points at all costs but not only to start the competition with a win but also to show the other teams, especially the joint favorites Morocco, Ghana and Senegal that they better be aware of Didier Drogba’s team. In the end they actually accomplished their goal but with a lot more difficulties than expected.
The pre-game talk was mainly about the Ivorian super stars such as Didier Drogba, the Touré brothers, Gervinho and so on and almost nobody even mentioned the Sudanese squad which was a first sign that they were being underestimated by everybody. Actually they all had good reason to do so since every player from the Sudanese national team is playing in the domestic and rather weak league. Of course two clubs from Sudan (Al-Hilal and Al-Merreikh) have been really strong in continental competitions and even in the Club World Cup in Tokyo last December but they don’t have any great individualists. Their team spirit and familiarity are the reasons for their success.
As expected François Zahoui, the manager of the Ivory Coast, didn’t relinquished any of his super stars. Kolo and Yaya Touré, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Gervinho were all playing. In the course of the game 3 more great players Max Gradel (ASSE Saint-Étienne), Abdul Kader Keita (Al-Sadd) and Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow) came in.
In the beginning, the Ivory Coast was very deep in Sudan’s half and put them under quite a lot of pressure. With time they calmed down but they were still dominating more or less. Ivory Coast played a lot over the wings and tried to build up pressure but Sudan was actually defending very well. The “Elephants” had some good opportunities that were wasted though by Drogba (21’) and Gervinho (12’, 30’, 37’). In the 41st minute Drogba eventually scored with a good header after a beautiful cross by Kalou from the left side.
After that goal the Ivory Coast seemed to be tired, Drogba even confirmed that after the match in an interview. They were more defensively-minded and already after Drogba’s goal in the first half Sudan had some good opportunities and was attacking. They even got some corners and Copa Barry, the Ivorian goal keeper, was forced to 2 great saves in the 42nd and 43rd minute. In the second half the roles were still reversed. The Ivory Coast who had been attacking for more than 40 minutes was forced to defend by the cleverly attacking Sudanese players. They had two more good opportunities in the 52nd and 58th minute but again Copa Barry literally held the upper hand. The Ivory Coast wasn’t totally defenceless though: Drogba (67’) and Gervinho (58’ and 77’) could have scored the second goal for their team but both of them messed up with panache. The Ivorians were lacking a creative player though as you can see on the pic I’ve added: they didn’t know what to do and played the infamous “kick’n rush” what means that Drogba received high and wide passes and kept the ball until his team mates were in Sudan’s half.
The Ivory Coast was starting in an offensive 4-2-3-1 whilst Mohamed Abdallah, Sudan’s coach preferred a more defensively-minded and to pressing forward geared 4-1-4-1. The “Elephants” rather played in a tight 4-4-2 when Sudan was attacking and in a really offensive 4-2-4 when they were in the opponent’s half as you can see on the pics I have added.
Even though the Ivory Coast has a team full of experienced stars, they underestimated Sudan and in the end Sudan would have deserved a draw. They were at eye level with the “Elephants” at times what is very well to see in the stats: Sudan shot 11 times on the goal, only 2 times less than Drogba and Co. Of those 11 goal attempts, 3 were shot on target whilst only Gervinho and Drogba shot on target altogether twice for Ivory Coast!
The Ivorian midfield had a possession of ball of 60.2% (Sudan: 39.8%) and completed 420 of 495 passes what means that 85% of the passes came to their team mates. Sudan only played 307 passes of which 74% (228) were successful. This might sound as if Sudan wouldn’t have much chances but actually Sudan played more passes (134) in the opponent’s half than the Ivory Coast in Sudan’s one (104)! That’s really impressive!
The main reason for Sudan’s strong offensive performance was Siaka Tiéné, the left full-back from Paris Saint-Germain. He wasn’t supported by his Salomon Kalou, the left winger and so there was always a lot of free space in his back that Sudan could use pretty well. Since Tiéné always left the back four to cover Sudan’s right winger what he didn’t do very well (he was always too far away from him) and so their was a huge hole in the defense that was fed with clever passes. Siaka Tiéné was overwhelmed by Sudan’s offense, that ruthlessly abused his weakness, and by the space for Sudan he created himself.
Thank you a lot for reading my article, I really hoped you enjoyed it! As you might have noticed, I have installed a new menu next to my Home-button, that is only dedicated to the CAF 2012. It’s still pretty empty but I promise there’ll be more content soon! 🙂 Ratings and comments are always wanted. 😉