Following a deadly attack on the Togolese team coach in Cabinda, causing Hubert Velud’s side to withdraw from the African Cup of Nations, Group B now only contains three sides: the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. With two nations progressing, a win for the Ivory Coast over Burkina Faso could prove to be decisive in gaining them a quarter-final berth.
And to be honest, a win is expected. In previous qualifying encounters, Burkina Faso have proved to be no match for the star-studded ‘Elephants’, losing 3-2 and 5-0. Currently ranked 49th in the world, Paulo Duarte’s side appear to have little chance of victory against the star-studded Ivoirians, with a goalmouth bombardment expected.
- Ivoirian Coach Vahid Halilhodzic will be looking for a positive start to the campaign
However, the Stallions won’t simply park their bus in front of the likes of Didier Drogba and Saloman Kalou. During qualifying, they only suffered two defeats – both to the Cote D’Ivoire – with victories over Tunisia and Malawi proving to be highly impressive. Most of the Burkina Faso squad plies its’ trade in Europe, and will be used to the Ivoirians high-tempo style of play, although any defensive frailties will certainly cost them any chance of points in their opening group game.
In comparison, the ‘Elephants’ are weak defensively too, something which Duarte will look to exploit using their key player and stalwart Moumouni Dagano. After an amazing 12 goals in qualifying, the Al-Khor frontman is in red hot form, and if given the chance, will test the likes of Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue. Vahid Halilhodži? will also need to halt Mahamoudou Kere’s midfield dominance, with the widely underrated powerhouse strong in both possession and strength.
- Moumouni Dagano: Burkina Faso’s dangerman
After unimpressive warm-up victories over Tanzania and Rwanda, Halilhodži? could well make changes to his side, with Hibernians’ Suleiman Bamba a possible starter after scoring against Rwanda on Thursday. Beside this, the Bosnian is expected to stick with the same side for their opening group encounter, comprising of stars such as Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, and Emmanuel Eboue.
All in all, 40-1 outsiders Burkina Faso should pose no threat to the ‘Elephants’, although if Dagano can convert any chances created then a goal-fest could be on the cards. However, I fully expect the Ivory Coast to emerge triumphant and take the initiative in Group B.
Prediction: Ivory Coast 4-1 Burkina Faso
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