Archives for posts with tag: Ivory Coast

“I didn’t have shoes – well, apart from the broken-down ones I’d inherit from my brothers – and sometimes we didn’t have food at home, but we had soccer.” (Claudio Suárez)

A rite of passage and a potent early memory in the mind of any football enthusiast, the first pair of boots received as a child forever hold a special place in your heart. I remember mine vividly; a pair of red and black blades bought for a pair of seven year-old feet from no less a world-renowned sporting institution as Clarks shoe shop. Read the rest of this entry »

This weekend, the qualifying for the next African Cup of Nations in 2012 starts and, as usual, there’s intrigue all round.

The first round of games saw some surprises, with 2010 AFCON hosts Angola, Algeria, Mali, Morocco, Egypt and Togo hitting bumps on the very long road to Gabon/Equatorial Guinea. We had injuries galore, politics, new appointments and the potpourri that makes African football so colourful.

In a guest piece for The Equaliser, Gary Al-Smith runs the rule over the upcoming fixtures and assesses the prospects of Africa’s qualification hopefuls.

Group A

Mali v Liberia, Zimbabwe v Cape Verde

Cape Verde shook the bookmakers with a win over Mali on Matchday One and leads the pack. Zimbabwe are next for the island nation as they try to secure a place at the Cup of Nations for the first time in their history.

After a lot of wrangling within the Zimbabwean FA and sporting ministries, the Warriors chose Tom Saintfiet as coach – while he had not finished his job with Namibia. The Warriors drew their first game with a caretaker manager and the Belgian was set to have his first game in charge this weekend.

However, the Zimbabwean camp was today thrown into disarray with the news that Saintfiet had been deported following complications in the process of getting him a work permit. Immigration officials spoke to the press last night and said of the matter “We have ordered him to leave the country while his application for a work permit is being processed.”

In the other game, Mali’s Eagles, now bottom of the group, host Liberia at the Stade 26 mars in Bamako. Yet everyone is puzzled about Alain Giresse’s decision to leave out his stars: Seydou Keita, Mohammed Sissoko and goalkeeper Mahamadou Sidibe. Even more confusing was that he proffered no explanations.

The team is receiving no bonuses after the defeat, with the accompanying damning verdict of the Malian sports ministry that they were “purely disappointed with the awful performance of the national side so far in the ongoing 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers.”

Sigamary Diarra, the French-born FC Lorient midfielder has been recalled, while striker Dramane Traore of Lokomotiv Moscow and Real Madrid star Mahamadou Diarra should get starts in this game.

Liberia also have their peculiar stories, with coach Bertalan Bicskei making a u-turn on Francis Doe. The former DC United player was said to have been at odds with certain decisions taken by the coach and had fallen out for ‘disciplinary indiscretions’.

Doe has apologized and is back in the team. There is also the small matter of two key players who will not play: Dulee Johnson and Dioh Williams. They also did not feature against Zimbabwe last month for breaking team rules and the gaffer is extending their punishments.

Zimbabwe's absent manager, Tom Saintfiet

Group B

Madagascar v Ethiopia, Guinea v Nigeria

Last Sunday, Nigeria’s players had started making preparations to get to Conakry in anticipation of a crunch away game with Guinea. It was not to be, however, as 24 hours later the FIFA Emergency Committee decided to suspend the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) with immediate effect on account of governmental interference.

It means Guinea could well get a bye – unless FIFA and Nigeria reach a speedy resolution – in what was supposed to be the most important game of the group. Guinea had won comfortably against Ethiopia, while Nigeria had dispatched Madagascar. If Guinea gets those ‘free’ three points, they may well be counting themselves winners of the group.

To be honest, any resolution to the Nigerian situation is unlikely to happen because Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan seems to like the idea of keeping his team out of football for at least two years.

The implications of Nigeria’s troubles will make Madagascar very happy, for it means 2-0 defeat to the Super Eagles is nullified. Ironically, the island nation will get the three points.

The Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia, meanwhile, who play Madagascar, will have to win if they can get anything out of this group. They have played a friendly with a local Ethiopian club and won 2-1. They’d hope to replicate that performance at the weekend.

Group C

Libya v Zambia, Comoros v Mozambique

Problems involving Zambian football authorities mean they need a united front when travelling to Tripoli to play Libya. For a long time, Kalusha Bwalya could not be touched in Zambian football because of his iconic status, but people seem to have had enough, with some even vacating their positions in protest at his style.  And though they are still leading this group – they hit four past Comoros – it’s all playing into the hands of the Libyans at the moment.

Newly appointed vice president of the Football Association of Zambia Boniface Mwamelo: “This will certainly affect the performance of the team. You see we are playing Libya this month, no one is talking about it, if this effort which has been used in this infighting at FAZ was channelled towards the game, it would have been to the benefit of all Zambians.”

Mozambique is yet to win in this campaign and playing Comoros away should not stop them getting their first three points – they drew against Libya in their first game.

Group D

Tanzania v Morocco, Central African Republic v Algeria

Tanzania held Algeria to a draw and Morocco could not beat the unfancied Central African Republic (CAR). This has made Group D very open, with the North African pair not living up to the billing.

After that draw, Algeria’s Desert Foxes’ had to look for a new manager as Rabah Saadane resigned. The new man is 47-year old Abdelhak Benchikha. He takes charge of his first game away from home in Bagui (CAR), not an easy place to pick up points.

“The most important thing for me right now is to properly prepare the team for winning the game against Central Africa, which is inconclusive but remains critical. We must win the game with the aim to re-launch in qualifying.”

Dar es Salaam is Morocco’s next destination and they really need to improve their goalscoring if anything is to come out of their beautiful football. Their opponents are Tanzania, who will feel emboldened to win against the North Africans, especially as their next game is against the World Cup finalists Algeria.

Mrisho Ngassa of Tanzania

Group E

Senegal v Mauritius, Cameroon v Congo DR

“We have received strong assurances from the authorities that we would be paid on Wednesday, no later than Thursday.”

That was Senegal’s coach, Amara Traore, explaining how the 11-month wait for salaries for the staff would soon be over.

“I was told the decree of disbursement of our salary had been duly signed, and I’ve seen it. We trust the authorities. We are optimistic.”

This was last Monday and, this weekend, the Teranga Lions play Mauritius. Senegal, joint-leaders with Cameroon, can move to six points if they win.

Mery-sur-Oise in France is the destination for the DR Congo, but their injury worries make their game against Cameroon an increasingly tricky one. Some staples to have been ruled out include key French-based defenders Larrys Mabiala, Cedric Mongongu and Assani Mulongoti.

Coach Robert Nouzaret seems not to have a firm grip on discipline in the team and it was evident as they lost 4-2 to Senegal at home in Lubumbashi.  AS Nancy defender Nanceen Joel Sami did not join up with the team, claiming that he was not called up while Nouzaret believes it was a deliberate snub by the young man.

The French embassy also refused to grant visas to some locally-based Congolese players.

Cameroon has also been hit with an injury blow to goalkeeper Carlos Idriss Kameni of Espanyol. Three weeks is how long he’ll be out and his call up was a surprise anyway as he has been sidelined from the team in recent times, having been benched throughout the Indomitable Lions’ poor showing in the World Cup.

However their Spanish coach Javier Clemente told reporters in Yaoundé that Arsenal’s Alex Song would be recalled after also being left out of late. He was the only Lion to have made the Team of the Tournament and he’s likely to make a return this weekend to bolster the team’s standing following their initial 3-1 victory over Mauritius.

Group F

Burkina Faso v Gambia

There’s only one game in this group.

When Mauritania football officials pulled out of the AFCON qualifiers due to a “lack of preparation time and financial issues”, Burkina Faso had a bye in their first game. Gambia will therefore be the first opposition for the Stallions.

Gambian football has been on the rise for some time following some heavy investment in youth football over the past five years or so. The explosion will surely soon be evident as those youngsters are blossoming in time for these qualifiers. They won 3-1 over Namibia in their first game and, for them, Burkina Faso – the top ranked team in the group – are just another of the bigger fish to fry.

Gambia’s coach Paul Put is motivation is simple: get the nation its first appearance at the Nations’ Cup. Namibia will not play as they also enjoy a bye due to Mauritania’s unfortunate withdrawal.

Group G

Niger v Egypt, Sierra Leone v South Africa

Reigning African champions Egypt were jolted at home by Sierra Leone as they drew 1-1 last month. This allowed South Africa to take top spot after an expected win against Niger. It ended 2-0 against the lowly West Africans, but Sierra Leone would be a harder side to beat.

Even though there have been reports of dressing room squabbles among the Lone Stars of Sierra Leone, South Africa will certainly lose some depth owing to the injury of Steven Pienaar. In the last qualifying campaign, Sierra Leone won 1-0 against Bafana Bafana and though stronger, the southern side would take nothing for granted.

After a long team-building process under Carlos Alberto Parreira, South Africa is not as weak as they were at the time. The World Cup hosts would also count on the absence of their opponent’s key man, Mohamed Kallon, to work in their favour.

Egypt is on the road in Niamey this weekend and it’s a pretty safe bet that the game will go the champions’ way. South Africa actually spared the Nigeriens as they wasted several chances and, with Egypt – who badly need the points – in ruthless mood, it must be a win for the North Africans.

Egypt are looking to win their fourth successive title

Group H

Rwanda v Benin, Burundi v Cote d’Ivoire

Didier Drogba (who has not decided when to return to international duty)and Salomon Kalou (injury) means Côte d’Ivoire have quite a task in Burundi. Their new local coach François Zahoui’s choice of striker to replace ‘El Drog’ will likely be Monaco’s Yannick Sagbo. After missing the last game with Rwanda, Galatasaray’s striker Kader Keita has also been brought into the fray.

Also injured are goalkeeper Copa Barry, Wigan’s defender Steve Gohouri and Hamburger SV right-back Guy Demel.

Burundi do not have the international exposure that the Ivorians have, but they would count on a close-knit style of play to stem the attacking tide that will surely come. Valery Nahayo plays for Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa and always relishes playing against big names.

“To be thinking about playing against the Ivory Coast and the players that they have is huge motivation for me. I played against them before in 2003 and I was a young player that time. Now I am more experienced and will hopefully be able to do much better against them.

“When we played them that time we only lost 1-0 at home. They had Didier Drogba, Didier Zokora and Kolo Toure playing. Now we have more players with international experience and we will come up with a good game plan to stop them.”

Rwanda, coached by Africa’s Coach of the Year Sellas Tetteh, will be expected to win at home against a well-drilled Benin side. Rwanda is the only team in this group with no points to its name and with Côte d’Ivoire already favorites to win this group, it’s really down to the other three to up their game.

With a point each, Burundi and Benin – under new coach Jean-Marc Nobilo – are in joint second place.

Group I

Ghana v Sudan, Congo DR v Swaziland

Ghana and Sudan both have three points after winning their first games, while Congo lead Swaziland on goal difference. Both of the latter two sides have yet to get a point, but it is Sudan that would really feel like they have the advantage. A win against their managerless World Cup quarter-finalist opponents would be a huge fillip, and with their team almost selected only from the top two clubs in the country, Al Hilal and Al-Merreikh, Sudan will be hard to beat.

Congo play Swaziland at home in Brazzaville in the group’s other match. Swaziland are scheduling a friendly with Botswana as preparation and with their few international stars playing in South Africa, it will be a surprise should they beat the youthful DRC. The central Africans are under Serbian-French coach Ivica Todorov – who has coached Burkina Faso and other Maghrebian clubs – and he is expected to give his side a win against the quite naïve Swazis.

The southerners have never qualified for the AFCON.

Group J

Kenya v Uganda, Angola v Guinea-Bissau

As derbies go, Kenya – Uganda is a pretty spicy East African affair. Nairobi should be an exciting trip for Uganda’s Cranes, who fight to keep top spot in Group J after hitting Angola 3-0. Uganda should be looking at a win with much of their European-based talent available: Nestroy Kizito (Partizan Belgrade, Serbia) and Hassan Wasswa (Karabukspor, Turkey). Scottish-based David Obua got some groin trouble while playing for Hearts as they lost to Glasgow Rangers over the weekend. He’ll be undergoing late tests to ascertain the extent of the injury.

Inter Milan’s MacDonald Mariga may be the new poster boy of Kenyan football, but the goals are expected to flow from the feet of their captain Dennis Oliech. He dared to score – nearly did, actually – against Real Madrid in the Champions League and has also been in good form for his French side AJ Auxerre when he scored twice against Nancy. Sweden-based Patrick Osiako and Johanna Omollo (Luxemborg-based), as well as Belgium-based Victor Mugabe (brother of Mariga) all have call-ups and should make this an interesting regional contest.

The atmosphere would also be stoked by news that Ugandan tycoon Michael Ezra has offered the Cranes team $650,000 (that’s 1.5b in local currency) if the team breaks its 34-year jinx and qualifies.

Angola, after a disappointing Nations’ Cup, will have to deal with the Guinea-Bissau without their coach Herve Renard. It’s put their efforts into disarray, but a win is still expected. It will not come easy, for even though they have never qualified for the AFCON, the Djurtus are largely uncharted waters in African football.

Angola take on Guinea-Bissau this weekend

Group K

Malawi v Chad, Togo v Tunisia

2006 World Cup finalists Togo absolutely need to win against Tunisia in this group to lift their chances of a Cup of Nations berth. But Togo would also be casting furtive glances in Nigeria’s direction as they try to avoid a FIFA ban of their own. Togo’s football politics is in a fine mess – particularly after the fallout of the Angola coach attack and more recently the fielding of a fake team against Bahrain.

That fake team fiasco has seen the very powerful Togo Football Federation Interim Committee President, General Séyi Mémène, resigning his post. This followed a request from the country’s President for the FA to put off a scheduled October 16th meeting of the FA’s executive committee.

There’s so much to the story, but as always, it is the fans who suffer again. Tunisia are coming into this game organized and ready to take advantage of any effects of political tension in their opponents’ half.

At the other end of the group, Malawi’s fans have suddenly become demanding after a few good showings, and a home-win against Chad is all they expect. Group K leaders Botswana are not in action during this round and will have to wait for next month’s showdown against Tunisia to possibly become the first team to book a place at the 2012 AFCON, the co-hosts aside.

Can Nouzaret take DR Congo to the next level?

Those of you who read the blog with something approaching regularity might remember that I wrote a piece several weeks ago focussing on football in the Democratic Republic of Congo, assessing both the state of the national side and the expectations currently carried on the shoulders of TP Mazembe – the country’s most successful club – in the CAF Champions League.

Since that post was written the Fédération Congolaise de Football-Association (FECOFA) have moved to appoint a new national team manager after the position was left vacant following the departure of Patrice Neveu back in April. Neveu’s successor, Robert Nouzaret, is another French manager with an excellent knowledge of the world game as a result of a career that has seen him take up various coaching roles across the globe.

An ex-Lyon and Bordeaux midfielder, the 66 year-old Nouzaret first rose to prominence as a coach during three separate spells with Montpellier between 1976 and 1996, also spending time in charge of various other French clubs including Lyon and Toulouse during what has been a relatively itinerant career. Although his CV at club level (including a brief sojourn to Algeria with MC Alger) is quietly impressive, it is for Nouzaret’s work on the international stage with Guinea and the Ivory Coast for which he has become best known.

First appointed by Les Elephants in 1996, the Marseille-born manager successfully guided a limited Ivorian side through qualification for the 1998 Africa Cup of Nations and took his team through to the last eight of the competition before being eliminated on penalties at the hands of Egypt. Despite having overseen what was viewed as a moderately auspicious campaign, Nouzaret resigned from his position after the tournament and reverted to club management in his native France.

However, just four years later he returned to the post in the wake of his dismissal by Bastia and was given a brief to make the Ivory Coast realistic contenders for the 2004 Cup of Nations and then go on to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.

But the Frenchman’s second experience with Les Elephants was not a particularly positive one, the lowest ebb being reached when Nouzaret having to flee the country in February 2003 during the anti-French riots which saw large numbers of French ex-pat families subjected to widespread violence and abuse. On his return to West Africa Nouzaret struggled to get the best out of a talented young squad, embarrassingly failing to qualify for CAN 2004 and finding himself duly dismissed as a result.

The nomadic manager’s only other international role came in 2006 when he became the head coach of the Guinean national team where he enjoyed a relatively fruitful time with one of the emerging forces of African football. At CAN 2008 in Ghana, the Frenchman oversaw Guinea’s unexpected march to the quarter-finals where they were eventually knocked-out, somewhat ironically, by a particularly strong Ivorian side. Just two years later, however, Nouzaret was sacked in the midst of an underwhelming World Cup qualifying campaign and replaced by former Liverpool player Titi Camara.

His successes in Africa may have been counterbalanced by a fair number of disappointments over the years, but FECOFA clearly believe that Nouzaret has the skills necessary to take their steadily improving national team on to the next level. After winning the 2009 African Championship of Nations with an exciting squad constituted entirely of players based in the country’s blossoming domestic league, DR Congo’s football administrators have raised their ambitions and are now set on the goal of reaching the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, a tournament which would be the country’s first appearance since 2006.

Indeed, FECOFA have not been naive enough to enter into a long and binding contract with their new manager, Nouzaret having been given a two-year deal with a clause in place that would immediately terminate the agreement should The Leopards not fulfil the heady expectations of the governing body.

Clearly, Nouzaret does not have an easy job on his hands despite a recent upturn in the fortunes of his new team, there is still much work to be done, while the ever-increasing pressure from FECOFA will likely prove something of a hindrance to him.

That said, the Frenchman will have some genuine talent at his fingertips as he goes about shaping his team – Shabani Nonda, Youssuf Mulumbu, Lomano Lua Lua and Hérita Ilunga all players capable of seeing DR Congo re-establish itself amongst the heavyweights of African football over the coming decade. Whether or not Nouzaret is the man to lead the regeneration remains to be seen, but the potential for significant and rapid improvement is most certainly there.

Prior to the start of the World Cup there was much expected of the competing African nations, the likes of Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon and Ghana all thought to be capable of reaching the latter stages, if not going on to become the continent’s first world champions.

However, this was an exceptionally poor tournament for the CAF representatives in South Africa, Ghana the only team to progress beyond the group phase, eventually reaching the last eight and coming within a crossbar’s width of being the first African team to ever reach the semi-finals.

But the Black Stars’ relative success must not be allowed to mask the wider failures of the African sides at the World Cup and, now that the dust has settled and the vuvuzelas fallen silent following the conclusion of the tournament, their performances should be judged with a greater objectivity.

In my opinion, if there is one lesson that should be learned from the negative experiences of the majority of the CAF nations at the World Cup, it is that African football associations should not be so hasty in their managerial appointments nor so keen to employ “big-name” European coaches in the short-term at the expense of both general stability and the prospects of suitable candidates from their own countries.

Prior to the tournament both Nigeria and Ivory Coast dismissed the coaches that had overseen the qualification process to replace them with Lars Lagerback and Sven-Goran Eriksson respectively, Scandinavian managers with significant top-level experience. However, in the case of the Super Eagles the outgoing manager, Shaibu Amodu, was himself a Nigerian – something that has been all too rare in African football in recent decades – and had been widely praised for the work he had done in negotiating the qualifying phase during what was his fourth spell in charge of the national team.

Amodu’s dismissal and subsequent demotion to his current position as coach of the Nigerian “B” team following a more than respectable third-place finish at the Africa Cup of Nations in January was both a brutal and cynical action by the Nigerian Football Association. His removal not only exposed the NFA as a deeply hypocritical and base institution, it also revealed the underlying insecurity that blights football in a host of African countries, namely that they feel somehow “lesser” if their national team is not managed by a coach with at least a modicum of success in either Europe or South America.

The hiring of Lagerback and Eriksson were mere trophy appointments by football associations obsessed with the pursuit of image and reputation over the construction of a balanced environment within which a settled and group of players can grow. Their obscene wages on pitifully short contracts represent wasted money which could so easily have been ploughed into national coaching development programmes or grass-roots academies as have been established in Ghana to good effect. This current system is evidently unsustainable, an ugly form of neo-colonialism that is, albeit inadvertently, damaging the African game.

Carlos Alberto Parreira’s time in charge of South Africa had a similar feel to it, the Brazilian replacing Kagiso-born coach Pitso Mosimane in 2007 before departing for Fluminense after a year in charge only to return in 2009 to to guide the Bafana Bafana through this summer’s tournament. Such actions constantly undermine the position and reputation of African coaches in the game and, although the wish for more experienced managers is understandable, are surely stunting the production of talented and informed coaching staff across the continent.

Indeed, Cameroon, traditionally more willing to give home-grown managers a chance with the national team, are also not free from blame this time around. The Federation Camerounaise de Football’s appointment of Paul Le Guen smacked of the same chronic short-termism, although, in the interests of balance, the Frenchman did salvage the Indomitable Lions’ qualifying campaign and begin to introduce more young players into the national set-up before resigning after their exit from World Cup.

As Milovan Rajevac showed with Ghana in South Africa, a foreign coach can work effectively with African teams given the right circumstances, but that coach must be willing to involve themselves in the culture of their adopted country, be thorough in their research and scouting methods and, most importantly, be given time to build a project and fashion an efficient team model from the materials available to them over a number of years.

Perhaps the best example of sensible administration of the game at the top-level in the continent is that of Egypt, a country that has demonstrated how rewards can be reaped if home-grown managers are shown patience and allowed to grow into their role. Hassan Shehata has now been in charge of The Pharaohs since 2004 and has guided the team to three consecutive Africa Cup of Nations titles. Success can be achieved with local coaches and a degree of application, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast take note.

Short-term, quick-fix appointments will only ever hold African nations back and deprive the continent of genuinely competitive teams and fail to produce home-grown coaches with the ability to do such high-profile jobs.

The nationality of the coach is an issue, but it is not the main one, the lack of a coherent strategy from the top down in so many of Africa’s major footballing nations being the more pressing concern. If the likes of the Nigerian and Ivorian FAs don’t take this lesson on board and start to lay the foundations required to achieve their long-term ambitions then it is unlikely that their fortunes at the highest level will change any time soon.

Brazil 3 Ivory Coast 1

Brazil: Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Bastos; Silva, Melo; Elano (Alves 67), Kaka, Robinho (Ramires 90); Fabiano

Ivory Coast: Barry; Demel, K Toure, Zokora, Tiene; Y Toure, Tiote, Eboue (Romaric 72); Dindane (Gervinho 54), Drogba, Kalou (Keita 68)

Brazil produced a confident performance in Johannesburg tonight to defeat the Ivory Coast 3-1 with a composure and comfort in possession as well as a strength at the back that has seen Dunga’s team establish themselves as the favourites to be crowned World Champions on 11th July.

Systems as expected

Dunga kept faith with the same eleven that showed such patience in overcoming a resolute North Korea on Tuesday night, again arranged in their now distinctive lopsided 4-2-3-1 and combining the qualities of pragmatism and attacking endeavour as they have done so effectively in recent months.

Brazil's 4-2-3-1

Eriksson, on the other hand, made one change to the team that played out a 0-0 draw with Portugal in Port Elizabeth, accommodating Didier Drogba in his nominal 4-3-3 from the start at the expense of Gervinho rather than dropping Aruna Dindane, the alteration that had been widely anticipated.

Brazilian patience

The early stages of the game saw the general pattern established as the Ivory Coast dropped deep, getting men behind the ball and attempting to stifle the creativity of Robinho and Kaka. Eriksson’s side proved very at carrying out their game for the first 20 minutes of the match, their illustrious opponents getting very few sights of goal despite their dominance of the ball and comfort in possession.

However, Brazil’s patience and excellent passing in the face of The Elephants’ five-man midfield in the defensive phase was eventually rewarded in the 25th minute when a wonderfully flowing ten-pass move resulted in Luis Fabiano firing the ball beyond Boubacar Barry.

It was a goal that demonstrated all that is good about this Brazilian team in possession, a willingness to wait for the opening before seeing the opportunity and transferring the ball quickly through the midfield.

At its heart was the classic combination play between the attacking trident of Robinho, Kaka and Fabiano, the three players exchanging passes extremely close to each other before putting the centre-forward through on goal.

Lopsided and under-protected

Brazil’s attacking play was aided somewhat by an Ivorian formation that undoubtedly had a left-sided bias. The “Actual Formation” stats from the game clearly show Yaya Toure and Ismael Tiote, the two holding players, as both having adopted positions more towards the left side of the field than would be expected, likely a ploy to keep the dangerous combination of Maicon and Elano quiet, but a tactic that saw right-back Guy Demel exposed and allowed Michel Bastos, Kaka and Robinho to keep hold of the ball on the Brazilian left flank under relatively little pressure.

As a result Brazil started many of their attacks down the left, attacking the space in front of Demel with Kaka shifting wider to support Bastos and Robinho before the ball was moved quickly and efficiently to the right side of the penalty area from where two of their three goals were created.

This pattern was no better highlighted than during the move which led to Brazil’s third goal, Bastos setting Kaka away into the space left open by the Ivorians’ formation and the out-of-position Demel, the Real Madrid playmaker getting to the touchline before passing across the face of goal to find Elano who had ghosted in from the right to finish with aplomb.

Defensive excellence

Drogba was a peripheral figure for much of the game

It was not just in possession that Dunga’s side impressed, they also look particularly robust and intelligent in dealing with their opponents on the rare occasions when the Ivorians emerged from their defensive shell to get forward and test the Brazilian back line.

With Drogba a peripheral figure for much of the game as a direct result of some excellent marking by Lucio and Juan, the Ivory Coast wide players, Aruna Dindane and Salomon Kalou, were forced to do much of the work going forward. But the wingers were unable to beat Maicon and Bastos for pace around the outside and so were forced to try and fashion opportunities by cutting inside and attempting to run into the space between the full-back and the centre-half.

Their efforts often resulted in a crowding of the top of the Brazilian penalty area and hinted at a lack of communication between the Ivorian forwards, moves either being snuffed out in the middle with Melo and Silva screening the back four or out wide by the tireless full-back partnership. This wasn’t a terrible Ivorian performance by any means, but the defensive organisation of the Brazilians made the West Africans look extremely blunt in the advanced areas of the field.

The introduction of Gervinho, a player with far more natural pace than Kalou or Dindane, did make some difference towards the end of the game as he stretched the Selecao when he got the opportunity to run directly at the Brazilian defence. Indeed, the Lille forward was central to the Ivory Coast’s consolation goal, running the best part of 80 yards with the ball before cutting it back to Yaya Toure who crossed for Drogba, free of Lucio for virtually the first time in the entire game, to head into the Brazilian net.

Group G taking shape

Although losing Elano to injury and Kaka to suspension ahead of their final group game put a slight dampener on the evening from a Brazilian perspective, there can be no denying that Dunga’s compact team are looking ominously strong and, on tonight’s evidence, more than capable of going all the way in South Africa.

Brazil’s win makes them the second team alongside the Netherlands to have confirmed their progression through to the last 16, while Eriksson and his players will have to defeat North Korea in their final group game and, if Portugal beat the North Koreans tomorrow as expected, hope that Brazil beat the Portuguese by enough goals on Friday to swing the potentially crucial goal difference in their favour.


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