A leading story of this World Cup has been the extremely strong performances of the Concacaf region but Africa has had plenty to celebrate and the Ivory Coast may be able to become the first side to book their last 16 place from the continent with a positive result against Greece.
A draw is likely to send them through but there seems little reason for them to be short on motivation and they have enough quality to see of Greece and head for a last 16 clash against Costa Rica. The Ivorians have seen a golden generation of players disappoint at home with several African Cup exits while also being drawn in hideous World Cup groups, but there is enough quality in Sandri Lambouchi’s side to book their spot in style with a win and they are backed to do so.
There was ample opportunity for panic when Kezkuke Honda’s stormer hit the net first up but the Ivoirians were calm, controlled, and the better side for the result of a game they turned around and deservedly won with two second half goals from Bony and Gervinho in 90 seconds and they ended that game much the stronger of the two sides.
The introduction of Dider Drogba on that Sunday turned things around in no uncertain terms and if anything, they played at least as well, if not better, when going down 2-1 to Colombia in the crunch encounter between what looks likely to be the two sides that progress – according to bookmakers – again ending a game which ;looked to have been gone in strong fashion after Gervinho’s
Fine indivudal goal to drag it back to 2-1 and they have the tools to get past Greece.
The Greeks are known for being an obdurate outfit and after adventuring forwards and being well beaten by Colombia in their first game – where they did threaten more than sporadically – they rerated to type, not helped by captain Kostas Katsouranis saw red after a second yellow card towards the end of the first half with two thirds of the game to go against a disappointing Japan side that failed to carve out any clear opportunities barring a horror miss from Okubo but they face an Ivory Coast side that boasts far more direct pace and power from all areas, especially with Kalou and Gerviniho while Serge Aurier has lit up the competition so far, and they can seal a last 16 place with a win.
Elsehwere, Colombia can seal the group with a win against Japan. Japan started in strong fashion when taking the lead against the Ivory Coast but they were torn to shreds out wide by the Africans and substituting Kalou, Gerviniho and Aurier for Cudrado, Ibarbo and the double team of Armero and Zuniga, just as much threat comes from Jose Penkerman’s men who carry a huge double threat in Teoflio Gutierez and James Rodriguez going forward. On the ropes late against the Ivory Coast, they had taken a 2-0 lead in deserved fashion beforehand and have the tools to seal a last 16 tie against Uruguay in style.
1 pt Ivory Coast (20/21 general)