GROUP B Battle: Cote D’Ivoire vs Ghana

16 Jan

(Source: Getty Images / ISSOUF SANOGO AFP/Getty Images)

The second clash of would-be favourites. Fittingly dubbed the “Group of Death”, it seems Drogba’s Elephants will find footballing progression difficult this year. Today’s test: The Black Stars on their first outing due to Togo’s withdrawal (or disqualification, whichever story you choose to believe), wanting to make a good start and hinder Cote D’Ivoire after their stumble against Burkina Faso.

The first few minutes were as to be expected, with The Elephants very much the aggressors. Knowing nothing short of a win would see them safely into the next round, the Ivorians bombarded the Ghanaian defence relentlessly. Hell bent on scoring and perhaps with a hint of anxiety, the front 3 of Drogba, Kalou and Gervinho all fell victims to The Black Star’s offside trap. It was somewhat ironic that Ghana saw the first real sight of goal. With Ivorian keeper beaten, Asamoah’s shot flashed just wide. The Elephants became more and more frustrated and begun testing Ghana’s number 1, Kingson, from range. Zokora came closest from range, first with an effort that Kingson collected easily, then with a more testy shot. Hit with power, swerve and dip, Kingson had to make sure he got everything behind it, punching and sending the ball out for a corner. Yaya Touré begun to muscle his way into the game, bullying the relatively inexperienced Ghana midfield in the absence of Essien. To their credit though, the Black Stars begun gaining possession and passing well, freeing Opoku down the wing, who had begun a personal duel with Arsenal‘s Eboué.

The Ivorian’s frustration begun to show as they begun scything down the Black Stars if they so much as set foot in Elephant territory. I know I said the other day that I’m all for hard tackles, but the ref should know the difference between accidental, innocent fouls and persistent fouling. A number of Ivorian players were lucky to escape unpunished.

Cote D’Ivoire finally found a way through with a quick break after breaking down a Ghana attack. The ball was moved quickly up the pitch and Yaya Touré weighed his pass wide to Kalou for him to marginally beat the trap. Kalou played a first time ball past the committed Kingson, leaving Gervinho the simple task of directing the ball into the net. The Ivorians had got their just desserts. Knowing this was their last group game, they finally took a chance, to afford them some breathing room. 1 – 0

Ivorian hearts were in mouths moments before the break, when Asamoah hit a vicious half-volley goalward. Barry had a lot of time to readjust and made sure he kept it out, producing a wonderful full-stretch save.

Essien was introduced at the turn, bringing experience to the Black Stars midfield. The weight of the nation was resting squarely on his shoulders as the crowd willed him onwards with his first touch on the ball. More experience was offered with the addition of Gyan upfront who instantly threatened as Ghana again took control in the middle of the pitch. The battle on the wing was brought to an end when Eboué crashed into Opoku with a dreadful two-footed lunge from behind. I’m glad the ref got that one right, that was almost assault! Straight red. And Eboué, surprisingly bewildered, went for an early shower.

There was an immidiate impact. The Ghanians played crossfield balls at will. They created a chance for Asamoah who improvised after playing the ball off a defender to shoot just wide.

The pressure was mounting on The Elephants. Coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, had seen enough. He replaced Gervinho who had been outplayed all game with defender Demel to close up shop. The Elephants soaked up the pressure and managed to mount a rare attack which ended in a free kick. Up stepped Teiné. From a good 35 yards out, he accepted Kingson’s invitation to shoot and belted the ball scrumptiously into the top right corner. I think it was the Elephants first shot of the half! He had no business shooting from there! No matter. 2 – 0

Again to their credit, Ghana kept coming but could not penetrate the Ivorian back four. Down to 10 men, the Ivorians played what the Italians would call “catanacho”, defending deep and hoofing the ball away when necessary. Their toil paid dividends when Keita took on 2 defenders and left them for dead after dazzling them with his trickery. He lofted a wonderful ball into the box and Drogba did the rest. The party begun. 3 – 0

The Black Stars pulled back a consolation goal when Gyan went down in the box. Perhaps the ref was giving it for 2 or 3 challenges on Opoku in the area during the first half, because that was soft. Gyan sent the keeper the wrong way. 3 – 1

A hard-fought match that the Ivorians deserved to win for creating the more clear cut opportunities. The result has left them comfortable with their destiny not controlled too much by “ifs” and “buts”. No matter the result between Ghana and Burkina Faso they will go through. Ghana have it all to do.

Final score: Cote D’Ivoire 3 – 1 Ghana

Man of the Match: If I hadn’t already given a losing player man of the match, I would be tempted to give it to Asamoah who was a nightmare to mark and tested Barry with shots and a free kick. But it goes to Yaya Touré who found his way when it mattered and finally beat the offside trap.

Goal of the Match: Definitely Tiené’s free kick.

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5 Responses to “GROUP B Battle: Cote D’Ivoire vs Ghana”

  1. Lulu January 18, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    Great posts – I feel like I’m right there in the action! Thanks for keeping a football watching novice intrigued.

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