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Football | Afcon

Elephants © Action Images

Elephants, Carthage Eagles lock horns



Venue: Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

Date & Time: January 26, 15H00 GMT

Both teams won their first games and already have three points each under their belt. The side that carries the day this afternoon will qualify outright to the next round of the competition. The Elephants narrowly defeated Togo in a clash many say exposed scary weaknesses within the Ivorian outfit, which coach Sabri Lamouchi himself acknowledged later on.

Didier Drogba and co will certainly try to prove wrong pundits who now fear that the continent’s number one team may not be as formidable as widely assumed. The Ivorians will open the meeting in a frenetic pace in a bid to impose their play against the Eagles of Carthage, who may likely resist with their technical and collective pattern and proceed via the flanks to put the Ivorian rearguard on the defensive.

The battle of the midfield could decide the fate of the encounter, with Yaya Toure, Didier Zokora and Siaka Tiene of Paris Saint Germain on hand to drive the middle of the park with utmost tenacity while making sure their front men are constantly fed with clever and timely passes. Wissem Ben Yahia and Oussama Darragi will as usual endeavour to maintain possession of the ball, by dispossessing opposing players and setting up their strikers. The team that makes the least defensive blunder will pay dearly for it, while experience and individuality are other important factors capable of determining the outcome of faceoff.

TEAM NEWS

Issam Jemaa of Kuwait SC has pulled out of Tunisia squad following a knee injury sustained during their 1-0 win over Algeria on Tuesday. The 28-year-old striker will stay away from the pitch for at least six months according to a statement from the Tunisia Football Federation.

The Tlhamane orphanage home in Rustenburg has announced it would send a number of supporters for Ivory Coast during their clash against Tunisia on Saturday.

A Ugandan Imam, who lives in South Africa, was invited to pray for the Elephants on Wednesday. He said the Ivorian players need to be humble and sharp in their shooting if they want to win the 2013 Afcon.

KEY BATTLES

Gervinho vs Youssef Msakni: Gervinho has demonstrated once again during their opener against Togo how fast he can run and how elusive he can be for his markers. He is a natural winger who can station himself in a wide position and cut in through the sides to either score or thread a pass into the box for his team mate to deliver. Msakni can effectively pull the strings for his side’s attack and take personal initiatives as well, thanks to his off-the-ball intelligence.

Yaya Toure vs Oussama Darragi: Yaya Toure is the powerhouse of the Ivorian midfield. His positional sense, work rate and tackling ability make him a very vital player in the outfit. He can also influence his side’s lead by scoring through short and long-range strikes. Oussama Darragi possesses good passing skills and ball control in the midfield. He can cover great distance during a match, deliver sharp assists and make last-ditch tackles on attacking players.

Kolo Toure vs Khalil Chammam: Kolo Toure remains the main centre back of the Ivorian team despite grumblings that he keeps committing blunders. The Manchester City player can bring the ball out of the defence and handle man-to-man marking with good passing skills and vision on the pitch. Khalil Chammam is a tall and strong left back, with a good jumping, heading and tackling ability. He can read the game very well and take brave initiatives.

QUOTES

Tunisia coach Sami Trabelsi: “Ivory Coast are a very strong side but not unbeatable. When you have the best players of the continent who have been playing together since 2006 and have been unable to win one single title that means there are problems in the outfit that were might be able to exploit when we meet on Saturday.”

Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi: “We will not be repeating the game we played against Togo, because if we do same against Tunisia it’d be very complicated for us in the group. I have spoken to my men. I’m expecting a new outing altogether against the Eagles of Carthage on Saturday.”

PREDICTION

The Elephants are aware that officials and fans are grumbling following their lackluster performance against Togo on Tuesday, and will be hoping to do their best to please their supporters and smooth their path towards the knockout stage, while Tunisia will count on a more tactically approach to overcome the Ivorian awe.

Ivory Coast 2-1 Tunisia

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