World Cup Qualifiers: Cote D’Ivoire vs Algeria

25 Jan

(Source: Reuters)

So onto game two of the quarter finals and the first pivotal clash involving two heavy weights destined for South Africa in the summer. We saw Egypt and Nigeria face off in the group stage and Cote D’Ivoire take on Ghana. But this would be the first telling encounter in a winner takes all contest.

Cote D’Ivoire come into the game as the only World Cup bound team that finished top of their group. Let’s not forget their 9 day break since their last game- you should be familiar by now with Togo’s leaving the tournament. The only question is whether this will work to their advantage. Algeria arrive in the quarters in rather shaky form, having only scored 1 goal during the group phase and playing very risky tactics that could very well blow up in their face tonight. They do promise some reprise having already claimed a scalp this term when they knocked Egypt out of the World Cup to steal a place for themselves at the finals come 11th June.

The game got off to a slow start with Algeria cagey and tentative, aware of the dangers presented by the Elephants. The defence was tight and compact from the off, marshalling Drogba as he tried to joust for space in Desert Fox territory. After a tight 4minutes, disaster struck out of virtually nothing. Yaya Toure tried an audacious back heel that backfired but fell back into his path. He managed to find Kalou who controlled brilliantly and fired the ball into the net. 1 – 0

Algeria left it all to do and now had to come out and play. Something their dismal last performance against Angola had lacked. Could they find it inside to match and better the Ivorians? They immediately switched their play, starting to press further up the pitch but almost came undone on the counter attack. A balance was needed between attacking to equalise and defending the pacey break of the threatening Elephants.

After worrying moments, the Algerian defence began to settle. The team started to control the tempo of the game, and the Elephants were quite happy to soak up some pressure and rest on their lead. For all their possession, the Desert Foxes didn’t create much and wasted the ball by playing long hopeful passes over the top. The Ivorian back four swept everything up and the few passes that got through were dealt with by a confident Barry between the sticks.

Ziani and Ghezzal began finding each other well, but Algeria as a whole didn’t seem capable of playing at the high tempo they had set and lost the ball cheaply. The Desert Foxes were showing what they are really made of and found a way through eventually with a well weighted ball over the top. Matmour plucked the ball out of the air, danced passed Tiote and hammered the ball into the top left corner. It went in off the post, the Algerian didn’t care and danced to the sound of 1 – 1

Algeria had come into their own playing with their heads up and stretching the Elephants at the back. Cote D’Ivoire were happy to hear the whistle for half time.

The second half saw the Elephants still rocking on their heels. Early pressure from Algeria pegged them back in their half and when they did get forward they wasted corners and shot wildly. Algeria looked more like their own worst enemies through their panicked clearances which could have ended up anywhere. The Desert Foxes enjoyed sessions of possession and could have taken the lead through Matmour, Meghni and Ghezzal. Cote D’Ivoire came close too at the other end through Kalou as Halliche continued to shut Drogba out of the game.

The contenders exchanged blows and kept the match exciting with chances at both ends, but as the clock wound down you began to expect extra time. The Elephants had something to say about that. Second half substitute Keita picked it up on the right, cut inside, and released a phenomenal drive from no-man’s-land. That deserved to win any game! From 25 yards, with his left, into the top left. There was no way back for the Foxes with 89 minutes up. 2 – 1

I had all but forgotten what year it is and the Algerians straight away reminded me. They did not deserve to be behind and stalked forward straight away. Portsmouth‘s Belhadj sent in a deep cross and up leapt Bougherra! The defender was playing centre forward and rose, heading the ball into the ground and in off the right post! 2 – 2

Extra time! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This was meant to be an almost easy win for the Elephants. Once again, it seems someone hadn’t read the script. The Ivorians have been building this team for years around Chelsea front man Drogba. Many believe the Elephants are ripe and ready to lift the cup after coming up short time and time again since their last triumph in 1992. Algeria are not from that sect and have their own history to write.

The Elephants begun to lose faith and with that they lost shape. 3 minutes into extra time Bouazza rose on the right to meet a cross… but it was too deep. Ziani kept it in play and swung it back in. Bouazza did the rest. Another header. The crowd lifted the roof off the stadium. You have to say, that wasn’t confident defending by the Elephants and the Desert Foxes profited. 3 – 2

Cote D’Ivoire dug deep and found themselves racing ahead on pure adrenaline. Having lead twice, they were now behind and needed a stroke of luck, a bit of skill, anything to put them back in control. But it was not to be. They threw all they had at the Algerians who looked evermore likely to score on the counter. In the end, the Elephants seemed to throw in the towel. They ran out of ideas and conceded defeat.

The Algerians produced a brilliant performance under pressure, battling against all odds to win 3 – 2 in a dramatic night in Cabinda. One of the favourites is out! And everyone else will breathe a short sigh of relief. I hope they will realise that they’d do well to be weary of the cunning Desert Fox.

Final Score: Cote D’Ivoire 2 – 3 Algeria

Man of the Match: Ziani who pulled the strings in the middle all night.

Goal of the Match: Bougherra with the second equaliser. I love it when defenders score and what an important goal too. Not only did it literally pluck Algeria out of defeat, but it gave them that belief to go on, believe in themselves and take it all the way.

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2 Responses to “World Cup Qualifiers: Cote D’Ivoire vs Algeria”

  1. world cup 2010 May 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    Thanks for sharring importent information in this blog.
    It was very nice.

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