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“…Because the Ivory Coast isn’t the one of the past years, they are average. They depend on Drogba, Gervinho and Yaya Touré. We can play at least 0-0. I’m sure that we’ll see many goals because of the rivalry between both teams.”
That was Paulo Duarte’s statement before the match of his team against the Ivory Coast. The Portuguese manager was totally wrong. The Ivory Coast showed that they do have team spirit in their 2-0 win against Burkina Faso. Furthermore we did see two goals but the game wasn’t that amazing.
François Zahoui’s team could qualify for the quarter finals thanks a great goal by Salomon Kalou (16’) and an own goal by Bakary Kone (82’). Burkina Faso was eliminated from the African Cup of Nations since they lost for the second time and Angola draw against Sudan what means that Angola is on the second place with 4 points after they already had won against Burkina Faso on the first matchday. It must have been a huge disappointment for Burkina Faso, who started with burning ambition, to have been kicked out in the group stage.
The Ivory Coast got that Group B clash at the Nueva Estadio de Malabo underway in the Equatoguinean capital and immediately took control of the ball. In the first half, the players of the Ivory Coast were in possession of the ball for entire 13 minutes and 36 seconds whilst Burkina Faso, who became stronger after some time ,,only” controlled the ball for 12 minutes and 43 seconds in the first half. The Ivory Coast was playing quite a lot over the wings with Gervinho from Arsenal and the eventual goal scorer Salomon Kalou who were rotating all the time. Drogba was also sometimes on the wing what was confusing the defense of the “Stallions” even more and eventually lead to Kalou’s goal.
Not everything was perfect though. Even though the “Elephants” probably have the strongest midfield of this year’s CAF, they only had a possession of ball of 52% and practiced the(ir) infamous “kick’n rush” again but not as much as in their first game against Sudan. Furthermore Burkina Faso was pretty brutal what led to some time outs and hindered the flow of play.
In the 16th minute Kalou scored after Drogba had moved out on the wing, delivered in an amazing cross that bypassed Yaya Touré at the near post before Kalou arrived in the back of the defense and the edge of the box and scored with a great left foot drive. Since Drogba was missing in the box, Yaya Touré had entered it to disturb the Burkinan defense and distract them from Kalou who could perfectly take advantage of the free space as you can see on the picture I’ve added.
In the following thirty minutes, Burkina Faso did become a bit stronger and especially Alain Traoré had some great opportunities for the “Stallions” but in the end Barry, the Ivorian goal keeper, did some great saves. The Ivory Coast had some more great opportunities but Gervinho wasted all of them like a farmer. Drogba was playing amazingly as well but he had to be cured after a hefty challenge with a defender from Burkina Faso. Luckily he could continue even though he was holding his left upper leg and we all know how sensible his muscles actually can be.
The beginning of the second half was kind of a mirror of the first one. The Ivory Coast perfectly controlled the ball but often lost it in the final third. Burkina Faso couldn’t abuse those mistakes though, their counter attacks were way too harmless. Gervinho kept on wasting chances while Burkina Faso became stronger in his own half. Especially Traoré and Pitroipa were trying a lot but unlike in the first match, the Ivorian back four stood very well and Tiéné, their weakness in the match against Sudan, was very good as well because his left winger was helping him amazingly! In the 82nd minute, Bakary Kone, the central back from Olympique Lyon scored an own goal with a header. That goal could have been avoided though if Kone hadn’t tried to clear Bony’s free-kick because his team mate, who was behind him could have cleared the ball without any problems.
The key factor for the “Elephants”’ success was their midfield. They were defending very well in a 4-1-4-1 and were controlling the game perfectly. Yaya Touré, Didier Zokora and Cheik Tioté played altogether 192 passes of which 172 were successful! So 89,6% of their passes actually reached their team mates! This is an absolutely amazing rate and is a demonstration of the Ivorian strength! Altogether those three players had 9 interceptions, every single one was successful. They committed 7 fouls but none of those was in the final third of their own half. They suffered as many fouls as they committed. As conclusion, I’d say that the Ivorian midfield and especially Cheik Tioté did an amazingly perfect job and their performance from yesterday has eventually made them to the top favorite for the win of the CAF 2012.