Africa Cup of Nations 2012 – Tactic Talk: Ivory Coast looking to establish attacking link-up

Ivory Coast began their 2012 Africa Cup of Nations campaign with a laboured 1-0 win over Sudan. The Elephants, among the pre-tournament favourites, struggled to break down a stubborn Sudan defence in the early exchanges, as an Ivorian side packed with talent currently plying their trade at the top end of the Premier League struggled to combine in the final third, with the breakthrough coming shortly before the interval, through a more familiar method.

Frustrated repeatedly in the first half, the Ivorians looked to move the ball into wide areas, in a bid to capitalise on the individual quality in their side, particularly in attacking areas. Throughout the first period, Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure looked to create in the channels, with the typical driving runs that have seen the former Barcelona midfielder become a key figure in a title-chasing City side, with little end product in return for his efforts on this occasion. Also looking to create was Arsenal striker Gervinho, himself looking to move into the channels to carve an opening. Both of whom would also have chances themselves to open the scoring, each coming close in the early stages of the game before the wide approach finally paid dividends, six minutes before the break.

Receiving the ball on the left wing from Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tiote, Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou found himself in space, cutting inside to deliver a pin-point cross, met by the powerful run of Blues team-mate and Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba, to head his side in front and settle the nerves in the camp ahead of the half-time interval. While fans of the Elephants would have been hoping their captain’s strike would have triggered a second half flurry of goals against opponents placed over 100 places below them in the FIFA World Rankings, the frustration would largely continue as their opponents looked to chase the game.

Threatening briefly through Eltaib Mudather’s first-half strike, clipping the crossbar via the fingertips of Ivorian goalkeeper Boubacar Barry, Sudan looked to capitalise on the Ivorian’s lack of attacking potency, with Hamid Nazar and Alaadine Yousif looking to net a shock equaliser. Meanwhile, Yaya Toure would again attempt in vain to create at the other end, lashing a wild, long-distance effort high and wide. Gervinho would also find himself among the chances, alongside skipper Drogba, who failed to add to his tally, as the Elephants held out for the victory.

Off to a winning start, Ivory Coast find themselves seeking improvement ahead of the remainder of their campaign. Boasting a wealth of talent among their ranks, particularly in midfield as well as among their forwards, as well as several players with experience of playing together at club level, many will be hoping to see such individuals shine in the tournament. However, while the players themselves will no doubt be seeking improved performances, a victory from their first game will allow the Elephants to gain momentum as they seek only their second Africa Cup of Nations title.

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