21 January 2012

Cote d'Ivoire/Sudan: Elephants Open Campaign for Title Under Close Scrutiny

Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Cote d'Ivoire's Gervinho, who scored his side's goal, heads past Cedric Kante of Mali.

The dominant role of Didier Drogba and his ability to spur on yet another Cote d'Ivoire challenge on the African Nations Cup will come under scrutiny on Sunday.

The Ivorians start their latest tilt on the title in Malabo against Sudan, firmly favoured to win but needing still to convince of their potential.

The Elephants have been the hot tip for the last three tournaments but failed to live up to expectation every time. Their fortunes plummeted with Drogba's form.

Now as the Chelsea striker heads towards the end of his career, his potential finally to lead his side towards the victors' podium is under ever closer watch and his role against Sudan will be microscopically analyzed.

It is not the toughest of starts for the Ivorians, who have lost only once in seven previous meetings with the Sudanese, but will give a clearer picture of how influential Drogba remains as a newer generation emerges.

The Ivorians line up for the Group B match in the Equatorial Guinea capital with the new African Footballer of the Year Yaya Toure in charge of their midfield and the likes of Gervinho, Salomon Kalou and Seydou Doumbia ready to take over Drogba's role.

Coach Francois Zahoui has warned that the top-ranked African side playing Sudan, who are 120th in the FIFA standings, is a match with potential pitfalls.

"We need to know that the Ivorian football is very difficult and now the team that has nothing to lose is more dangerous than any selection," warned Zahoui in a pre-match press conference.

He starts the game without veteran defender Didier Zokora, who has a one-match suspension.

Sudan have a full quota of players available for the match. They are the only side who have a squad exclusively made up of home-based players, the majority from just two clubs -- Al Hilal and Al Merreikh, both from the capital, Khartoum.

It is only the second Nations Cup appearance in 36 years for one of the founder members of the Confederation of African Football, who scraped into the finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon as one of two best runners-up in the qualifying campaign.

Sudan were in the finals in Ghana four years ago but lost all three group games, losing all three 3-0.

The last goal they scored in the finals was in 1976 against Zaire and their last victory was in the 1970 final.

More on This

Elephants to Maintain Status Quo Against Desert Hawks

Away from the impressive opening ceremony and the opening matches, the action shifts to Malabo, the capital city of… Read more »

See What Everyone is Watching

Copyright © 2012 allAfrica.com. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 800 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.