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Poor, Poor Ivoirians Unable to Convert Chances

To say the Ivory Coast ‘couldn’t hit a barn door’ against Burkina Faso is a bit of an understatement. Whilst the Burkinabe should be praised for their courageous defensive qualities, the fact that the ‘Elephants’ didn’t muster a single goal from seventeen attempts outlines how wasteful they were, after a sluggish performance left them in severe danger of an embarrassing exit in the Group Phase.

Vahid Halilhodži? started the game with a line up similar to the one that had scraped past Rwanda on Thursday, with stars such as Gervinho, Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Didier Zokora all included. And within minutes, the Ivoirians demonstrated why they are pre-tournament favourites, pressing with intent and dominating possession. All that evaded them was a goal…

Captain Didier Drogba was unable to break down the Burkinabe defence
Captain Didier Drogba was unable to break down the Burkinabe defence

Gervinho’s constant trickery saw him breeze past Mamadou Tall several times, and in the 16th minute an inch-perfect cross found Bakari Kone unmarked at the back post, but Kone headed wide after choosing not to volley the ball. Just four minutes later the Tunisian referee took centre stage, after Tall clearly clipped the onrushing Drogba in the box, with a penalty seeming the only option. No. Even I screamed at the TV, with it being such an obvious foul! Halilhodži? fumed, Drogba looked in disbelief. Further chances fell to Kone and Zokora, with the latter’s attempt causing Burkina Faso’s ‘keeper Diakite to fumble, although Gervinho couldn’t capitalise on the opportunity.

However, it seemed as though the Ivoirians’ were struggling to cope with the strenuous conditions of Angola, and their previous ‘goalmouth peppering’ soon turned to an ample passing routine, showing clear signs of a wilted attack. And as the Ivory Coast wilted, the ‘Stallions’ sensed an opportunity to press forward. Jonathan Pitroipa impressed when up against Emmanuel Eboue, and his trickery set up an unmarked Moumouni Dagano 25 yards out, drawing an alert save from the previously unoccupied Boubacar Barry. With a draw looming, the Ivoirians’ stepped up a gear once more. Kone once again shot straight at Diakite, Drogba’s angled shot scraped the post, and Yaya Toure’s 30-yard rasper whistled over the crossbar.

Burkina Faso's Jonathon Pitroipa impressed down the right flank
Burkina Faso’s Jonathon Pitroipa impressed down the right flank

Paulo Duarte’s side appeared to be hanging on, but the ‘Elephants’ could, and should have won it late in the game. After Gervinho’s combination of dummies and stopovers saw him to the byline, a neat dragback set up an unmarked Kone just six yards out. Surely? With Halilhodži? almost celebrating, the Marseille frontman unbelievably scuffed his attempt wide. By now, every player bar Barry was camped in the Burkinabe half, engulfed in the action. Galatasaray’s Abdul Keita saw his cross-cum-shot tipped over by Diakite, whilst Drogba’s piledriver went harmlessly wide. With only two minutes left on the clock, Chelsea’s Saloman Kalou was put clear by Zokora’s incisive pass, but managed to sky the ball well clear of the crossbar. And that was it. The Ivoirians’ left the pitch disappointed, the ‘Stallions’ celebrated a momentous draw.

Saloman Kalou wasted a golden opportunity in the dying moments
Saloman Kalou wasted a golden opportunity in the dying moments

After the match, Halilhodži? was quick to praise the ambition of the Burkinabe defence, but admitted his side were extremely disappointed at their inability to convert chances. He told afrik.com, ‘We played against a united team that had decided not to allow any goals and this made it quite complicated. We failed our task. We tried to stay focused. It certainly was hot, but the heat hampered both teams… we will try to adapt.’

And with Group B now only a three-team group following the Togolese withdrawal, the Ivory Coasts’ encounter with Ghana on Friday is now crucial; lose, and the ‘Elephants’ charge could be halted.

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