Rustenburg — Cote d'Ivoire might have looked limp in their first match at the African Nations Cup finals but they set straight the doubters with an emphatic showing in their second, thumping Tunisia 3-0 in Rustenburg on Saturday.
A convincing win at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace means the Elephants are just one point away from a place in the quarter-finals and might yet have their place confirmed by the time the final whistle goes on the day’s second game between Algeria and Togo.
The Ivorians shocked by leaving out talismanic captain Didier Drogba, whose starting berth must be in deep peril after the side stormed forward without him. Lancina Traore proved himself the natural successor with some powerful running and efforts on goal, fed by the pace and skill of Gervinho.
The pair played a cheeky one-two in the Tunisian penalty area to claim the first goal of the game after just 21 minutes. There could have been a few more had it not been for Salomon Kalou’s wild shooting and a contentious offside call early in the second half.
The last two goals came three minutes from time to cap the Ivorians' showing and put a more realistic sheen on the score line.
Yaya Toure, who took Drogba’s position as leader on the field even though nominally not captain, was deserving of a goal for his work rate. He played in a more forward role and was central to most of the attacking moves, crowning his performance by sweeping home the ball from the edge of the area in the 87th minute.
Substitute Didier Ya Konan got in on the attack right on the final whistle with virtually his first touch of the match. He scored the third goal for the Ivorians from just a little ahead of where Toure had delivered his.
“This is really the start of the tournament. I’m very satisfied with my players and their reaction. How we played is a reflection of what we have been working on in training,” said coach Sabri Lamouchi.
But he did not directly address questions about the benching of the Drogba. “Those who were fielded were those... who I believe were ready to face Tunisia from the first minute of the game. I don’t see great players, only a great team.”