Do Or Die Mission For Elephants
After failing to seize three points against Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast know that their destiny in Angola is at stake and any false move in their second group match could prove to be fatal. It will be harmful not only to the country but to the image of the media-glorified star players the team is composed of.
And back home in Abidjan, Didier Drogba and company know they will be in soup with local fans if Ghana halt their progression to the next stage of the African Cup of Nations.
Coach Vahid Halilhodzic had talked about the lack of freshness, low mental strength and porous cohesion of his squad. He assured everybody days before the tournament that he had nicely overhauled the squad and that there was no more cause for fear.
But their first game against Burkina Faso revealed that the Ivorian machine needs more oiling or a complete repair. Ivory Coast’s FA president blasted the team for their lack of fighting spirit and it will be interesting to see how the squad react to such stinging criticism.
Portsmouth’s Aruna Dindane and Kader Keita of Galatasaray may begin the first half as opposed to the line-up of the previous match. They will receive instructions to hold on to the ball and try to dance with it as cleverly as possible in the Ghanaian defence, expecting to obtain a goal, a free-kick or a corner.
Black Stars Full Of Hope
This will be Ghana’s first match of the African Nations Cup. The Black Stars have rested, trained, and watched so many of the surprises so far at the tournament. They need not to be told that anything can happen.
Although plagued with some vital absentees such as Stephen Appiah, Sulley Muntari and John Paintsil, the Ghanaian squad remain dangerous. Unlike the Elephants, Ghana play a more technical and collective football and may not be intimidated by the parade of European top league stars they’ll be confronting on Friday evening.
Coach Milovan Rajevec knows he has a big job cut out for him in this encounter. Risking playing with half a dozen of the last FIFA Under-20 World Cup winners, he is absolutely not counting on experience as a winning factor, but rather a collective play.
Local supporters in Cabinda will surely share their hearts between Michael Essien and Didier Drogba – two sons of Chelsea FC, a widely cherished club in Angola.
With just one group game to go after this one, Ghana will be careful to procure some meaningful advantage against Ivory Coast in order to step onto the field with less panic to face Burkina Faso.
Ghana will play technically, thanks to the new entries, but will that be enough to outmatch the wealth of experience on the Ivorian side?
Ivory Coast’s squad is complete once again. No training session injuries have been reported. The FA president Jacques Anoma will be giving a very motivational speech to the players a day before this crucial encounter with Ghana, according to reports.
Barry Boubacar (KSC Lokeren OV, Belgium), Zogbo Aristide Benoit (Maccabi Netanya FC, Israel), Angban Atchouailou
Vincent de Paul (Asec Mimosas, Ivory Coast.)
Eboue Emmanuel (Arsenal FC, England), Demel Guy-Roland (Hamburger SV, Germany), Tiene Siaka (Valenciennes FC, France), Boka Etienne Arthur (VfB Stuttgart, Germany), Toure Kolo Abib (Manchester city, England), Meite Abdoulaye (West Bromwich Albion FC, England), Bamba Souleman (Hibernian FC, Scotland), Angoua Brou Benjamin (Kispest Honved, Hungary)
Midfielders: Toure Yaya Gnegneri (FC Barcelona, Spain), Zokora Didier (FC Seville, Spain), Fae Emerse (OGC Nice, France), Kone Kouamatien Emmanuel (FC Curtea Arges, Romania), Gosso Gosso Jean-Jacques (AS Monaco, France), Tiote Cheik Ismael (FC Twente, Holland)
Kone Bakari (O. Marseille, France), Keita Abdul Kader (Galatasaray SK, Turkey), Yao Kouassi Gervais (LOSC Lille Metropole, France), Kalou Salomon (Chelsea FC, England), Drogba Didier (Chelsea FC, England), Aruna Dindane (Portsmouth FC, England)
Important midfielder Anthony Annan of Rosenborg, Norway, is ruled out of the Ivory Coast clash. He was reported to have sustained a hamstring injury during training session. He could be fit for the match against Burkina Faso on January 19th.
Good news, as injured Michael Essien successfully made it from England to the Ghanaian camp in Cabinda on Tuesday despite the terrible weather conditions in the UK. He has been announced fit for Friday’s match against Ivory Coast.
Richard Kingston (Wigan, England), Daniel Agyei (Liberty Professionals, Ghana), Philemon McCarthy (Hearts of Oak, Ghana)
Defenders: Hans Adu Sarpei (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany), Samuel Inkoom (Basel, Switzerland) Eric Addo (Roda JC, Holland) Isaac Vorsah (TSG Hoffenheim, Germany) Mensah Jonathan (Granada, Spain), Lee Addy (Bechem Chelsea, Ghana) Harrison Afful (Esperance, Tunisia)
Midfielders: Ibrahim Ayew (Zamalek, Egypt) Michael Essien (Chelsea, England) Anthony Annan (Rosenborg, Norway), Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Sampdoria, Italy), Opoku Agyemang (Al Sadd, Qatar) Kwadwo Asamoah (Udinese, Italy) Moussa Narry (Auxerre, France) Andre Ayew (Arles-Avagnon, France)
Attackers: Matthew Amoah (NAC Breda, Holland) Asamoah Gyan (Rennes, France), Dominic Adiyiah (Fredrikstad FK, Norway) Haminu Draman (Locomotiv Moscow, Russia), Osei Ransford (FC Twente, Holland)
Didier Drogba remains the veritable scorer of the Ivorian team. Analysts say he could have netted all the balls Bakary Kone missed against Burkina Faso. His presence in any match brings panic and extra-caution in the defensive area, and he is capable of converting any cross into the back net. He was nicely marked by Burkina Faso’s Madi Panandetiguiri last Monday. Let’s see how far and well the Ghanaian defence will take care of him.
A.C. Milan-bound Dominic Adiyiah from the FIFA Under-20 World Cup squad brings terror to every box area. He was a top scorer of the FIFA junior tournament and people say he might be the revelation of this AFCON. Some critics say he lacks experience and what it takes to excel in high level matches. However, he’s one to watch. He might be the next Samuel Eto’o.
Both teams will enter the field with much pressure on their shoulders. And much of the work will rest on their tacticians. Every minute and segment needs to be accurately managed. The Ivory Coast will resume with ultimate speed and Ghana will need to bring down the tempo and try to impose moderation, which might not hold for long.
Ivory Coast 2 – 2 Ghana
Kingsley Kobo, Goal.com
Also see: How to watch Angola 2010 live online.