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Football | Afcon

Sabri Lamouchi and Zokora © Backpagepix

Odds favour Ivorians over Togo



Venue: Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

Date & Time: January 22, 5pm

Ivory Coast are the team to beat at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. The Elephants topped the Fifa ranking, with regards to the continent, throughout last year and produced the best two Caf players of the year Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba.

However, coach Sabri Lamouchi and his men are conscious of the need to defend this status at the showpiece right from their opener. With a number of favourites like Ghana and Zambia failing to carry off their first group matches, fear is gathering that the Ivorians might be jinxed as well against Togo, who would have lesser pressure on their shoulders as the general expectation of Ivory Coast winning still stands high.

The Sparrow Hawks have met the Elephants a couple of times in official tournaments and have always put up a laudable fight, but times have changed like the generation of footballers. The Didier Drogba-led outfit is statistically and technically superior to the Emmanuel Adebayor’s group, and the determination on both sides might not be so balanced.

The Ivorians were finalists in the previous edition and most players in the set up see this edition as their ultimate and are bent on rolling out their best with the hope of clinching the elusive title. The Hawks have been plagued by a number of crises back home which affected not only the progress of the sport there but also preparations for the 2013 Afcon. They would have every excuse to give for their performance at the competition.

TEAM NEWS

The Elephants visited an orphanage home called Tlhabane West in Rustenburg on Monday evening to kick football with kids. Didier Drogba, Max Gradel and Lacina Traore also danced with the children, which coach Sabri Lamouchi says was meant to put his players at ease ahead of Togo clash.

Ivory Coast fitness coach Jean Paul Ancian said he had to almost double his exercises with the players because he was not satisfied with the current physical form of the team ahead of the Togo faceoff. But has assured that the players were responding very positively to the sessions.

Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor has vowed to humiliate the Elephants this afternoon. He said he would constantly perturb their defence and prove to them that Togo are still a side to be reckoned with on the continent, during an interview with Ivorian daily Le Jour.

Togo coach Didier Six reassured on Monday that his players have seemingly overcome the difficulties they encountered before their arrival in South Africa and they were now fully set to take on Ivory Coast. He did not mention injury issues.

KEY BATTLES

Didier Drogba vs Emmanuel Adebayor: Drogba is a proven target man who can score from any angle near the post and is very good with air balls and very mobile, which might be a hurdle for the somewhat static Togolese defend, with a number of anticipation and positioning problems. Adebayor can station himself in a wide position and can deliver on-time crosses, dribble his way in through the flanks and overtake his markers with fine pace. The Ivorian defence will be very mindful though.

Yaya Toure vs Moustapha Salifou: The African Footballer of the Year Yaya Toure will have in face another skilful midfielder with good positional sense, work rate and tackling ability. His name is Moustapha Salifou, popularly know as the Zidane of Togo. The 29-year-old former Aston Villa player possesses good passing and close-control abilities and can hold the ball in midfield under sustained pressure.

Copa Barry vs Agassa Kossi: Both men are wonderful goalkeepers for Ivory Coast and Togo respectively, and have some measurable amount of experience. Kossi has played essentially in France while Copa in Belgium. Both have physical strength, considerable height, jumping ability and can deal with aerial balls. And they will likely show more of these this afternoon.

QUOTES

Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi: “We are thinking just Togo at the moment. The competition is still far ahead. We must bring down the Togolese hurdle before thinking of other opposition. We know it is going to be tough, not as people see it, so we have prepared for it. A win is important however the scoreline.

Togo coach Didier Six: “I have never had issues with Adebayor or my goalkeeper Agassa. Don’t listen to the media. It’d be unthinkable not to use the two of them. Ivory Coast are a strong side and top favourite of the tournament. They have talented players but we will not be watching them play. We have great players too and we’ll do our best. I have imposed some useful discipline that my players will stick to during the clash.”

PREDICTION

Ivory Coast will be coming on with three major qualities that may put them ahead – Talent, Experience and Determination. If perfectly combined, Togo might not survive the day, but the Sparrow Hawks are used to such pressures and know what to do to avoid a collapse.

Ivory Coast 2:0

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