Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ivory Coast qualify as Togo eliminates Algeria

Yaya Toure did not need my endorsement to pull off a coup, in a match in which Gevinho was man-of-the-match and Didier Drogba started from the bench. The three-gun salute handed to the Tunisians followed the four goal salvo we saw 24 hours ago when Burkina Faso blasted Ethiopia.

The African Footballer of the Year does not need me as a fan, but nonetheless, he is making good progress in impressing me. I don't doubt his quality but the problem is me. A few flashes of tactical awareness as well as unquestioned individual brilliance did not convince me that Africans can compete outside their sphere of influence.

There were pockets of good decision-making, obviously a result of the experience these players gained in the Barclays English Premier League and the French League. Where decisions were bad, the execution of technique cancelled matters out, given the opposition did not capitalise to punish the wrong decisions.

It was a solid and round performance by African standards, but still lacked the tactical maturity of the game at national levels. Tunisia had hoped to steal something out of the match with Drogba benched.

The former Chelsea cult hero came on and nearly registered his first 2013 Afcon goal. He proved a thorn as his presence led to that Yaya goal after Gervinho had short the Elephants ahead in the first half, and when Tiote scored with his first touch after coming on, it was a master stroke.

Algeria huffed and puffed firing blanks as they have done in their build-up to the tournament, as well as the 2010 Fifa World Cup. I cannot remember the last time they hit the net in a tournament. Their adversaries, Togo, started slowly, sizing up their way up.

The Togolese always played the inaccurate long ball, which was spot on just on one occasion and Emmanuel Adebayour punished them, beating the goalkeeper on a one versus one.

It was a basic route one football, a long ball from the back and then a ping-pong heading tennis from Adebayour to  Romao onhis left and then to Adebayour’s path. The tall Tottenham Hotspur striker outpaced the defender and slotted the ball under advancing goalie.

A physical battle in midfield ensued and that brutality led to several claims by the North Africans for penalties. The referees did not bow down to pressure. Algeria forced their way into the final third often but failed to direct the final pass or the shots.

As the attack swarmed the Togolese penalty area, it seemed the desperate attempts would yield something for the Algerians but it was vain attempts. It was until the drama of the broken goalpost that stole the show in the last five minutes.

The upright post broke at the base and the wobbling posts and nets had to be replaced, though it took far too long. To add unsolicited drama, the match officials played the five minutes and then added thirteen more minutes.
That gave Togo one more counter-attacking opportunity. A through pass from the centre circle was chased by substitute Wome, who had a few touches and slotted the ball once again, under the advancing goalkeeper to make it 2-0.
The Algerians became the first team to be eliminated while the Ivoirians were the first to qualify with their 100% records each.