NewsNorth AfricaAfcon - CAN 2013: Ivory Coast so close yet so far


Posted on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 17:09

Afcon - CAN 2013: Ivory Coast so close yet so far

By Amit Singh

In his prime Drogba was arguably the best striker in the world/Photo©ReutersDespite beating Tunisia 3-0 on Saturday, La Cote d'Ivoire certainly need to improve if they want to avoid another 'nearly tournament'.

The tournament favourites looked to have hit the right form, but two late goals masked what was at times a less than assured performance from The Elephants.

Runners up last year, the Ivoirians had high ambitions going into this tournament, which could certainly be captain, Didier Drogba's last Africa Cup of Nations tournament.

Cote d'Ivoire's record in the African Cup of Nations has been marred by upsets and disappointment in recent years.

The so called 'Golden Generation' of Ivorian football has simply failed to deliver on the international stage, often at odds with the success of the individuals in their club game.

In fact, Cote d'Ivoire players have as many UEFA Champions League winners between them, three, as Manchester City's Premier League winning team has.

The Golden Generation has been Cote d'Ivoire's best chance of dropping the chokers tag, but so far they have nothing to show for their wealth of talent.

In 2006 and 2012 they finished runners up, while in 2008 they finished fourth and in 2010 they made it to the quarter-finals.

This is a good record, but for a side blessed with so much quality, they should have won the trophy at least once during this period.

This year is probably the last chance for some members of the golden generation, particularly Drogba, to win the title.

At the next tournament, to be hosted in 2015, Drogba will be 36 and surely would have retired from international football, and replaced by younger stars like up and coming striker Lacina Traore.

A team of individuals

Nobody can doubt the quality within Cote d'Ivoire's squad. Yaya Toure and Drogba in particular are two of the best players in world football.

In his prime Drogba was arguably the best striker in the world, while Yaya can stake a good claim to being the best box to box midfielder in the Premier League, possibly in the world.

However, Cote d'Ivoire have failed to get the best out of their individuals and mould them into a real force to be reckoned with.

Against Tunisia for example, despite dominating large portions of the game, Cote d'Ivoire failed to score the crucial second goal until the 87th minute when Yaya struck.

A flurry of missed chances, as well as a lack of composure in possession in the final third left the second half a lot more open than it needed to be, as Tunisia, at times, threatened to mount a come-back.

Fortunately for the Ivoirians the Tunisians failed to grasp the opportunity, allowing them a 3-0 lead, all but securing their qualification to the next round.

The cohesion between the players was at times less than impressive, especially for a side with so much quality.

As is often the case in international football, something England fans can testify to, it is often difficult to mould 11 talented individuals into an effective team unit.

Where must the Ivoirians improve?

The question at the tip of everyone's tongue is "what will become of Drogba?"

The iconic Ivorian captain spent the majority of the Tunisia game on the bench. It was unclear whether he was being rested or had dropped.

The younger and very talented Lacina Traore partnered Lille forward Salomon Kalou up front.

At just 22, Traore is widely regarded as the future for the Ivoirians, while Drogba very much represents the past.

Despite his age, Drogba is an integral part of the side, but there are question marks over his fitness.

Whether he can gel with the rest of the team remains to be seen, although if Cote d'Ivoire are to go far in this tournament he will likely be a key presence both on and off the field.

From a tactical stand point though, Cote d'Ivoire must improve in possession, particularly in the final third, as their game with Tunisia showed.

Even key figures like Yaya and Cheik Tiote were responsible for giving away possession cheaply.

A more difficult team might have punished the Ivoirians for their lack of care in possession.

Further to this they will need to show more determination against better sides, having been guilty of missing a few big chances, particularly in the first half.

It is looking more likely that the Ivoirians stand a good chance of winning the tournament, especially after Ghana stuttered against DR Congo in their first game.

To make matters worse, Ghana have left a few big players at home, such as Ayew, Muntari and Essien.

Meanwhile, Nigeria look ready to leave the game already, despite having a good quality squad.

But, as we saw last year, nothing is certain in the African Cup of Nations and thus Cote d'Ivoire must find another gear if they are to go all the way this year.

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