23 January 2013

Cote d'Ivoire/Togo: Elephants Shun Afcon 'Favourites' Tag

Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Gervinho of Cote d'Ivoire celebrates his goal during the encounter with Togo.

Cote d’Ivoire breathed a collective sigh of relief at winning their opening match at the African Nations Cup, sneaking in a last gasp goal to beat a gallant Togo 2-1 in a difficult game.

It means they share top place in Group D with Tunisia, who they will meet next on Saturday, again at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg.

But it was a far from the decisive performance that was expected to go along with their role as favourites for the crown.

This might have come as a surprise, but for the Ivorian players there was a collective chorus of "we told you so".

All players insisted that although they might be favourites, it is not a tag that sits well with the team and they are much more conscious of the fact that the Nations Cup is always an open tournament.

“There are so many good teams at this competition,” said reigning African Footballer of the Year Yaya Toure after the match.

“We watched Ethiopia play [against Zambia] and we were impressed with the way they played with 10 men. They dominated the champions.

“The competition this year is at very high level and we have to give full credit to the those teams who are seen as outsiders. Everyone talks about us as favourites but it also makes us a target. Everyone is capable now of beating a big team and they want to do so.”

His captain Didier Drogba said much the same thing, adding he was not surprised that Togo had presented such a challenge.

Drogba has made much of the fact that the Ivorians do not see themselves as the hot ticket at the Nations Cup but are cautious and circumspect in their approach.

Maybe a little too much on the evidence of Tuesday’s game.

“Confidence is very important. We are working hard and training and at the moment what is important is to keep going and be as strong as possible. We are here to play six games and hope we can go far.”

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