29 January 2013

Cote d'Ivoire/Algeria: Little to Play for As Ivorians Face Algeria

Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix
Ivorian star Didier Drogba, seen scoring in 2012, provided a reminder of his prowess when he helped his side come back from behind by scoring one of their two goals.

Both Algeria and Cote d’Ivoire have little to play for in their final 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Group D clash in Rustenburg on Wednesday.

The Ivorians cannot be caught at the head of the pool, having already secured their status as group winners, while Algeria will finish bottom no matter what the result.

A little bit of momentum is all that will be driving the players, though both coaches are likely to make drastic changes to their line-ups either to give chances to fringe players or rest their stars.

One man who could use a good outing should he get on is Ivorian talisman Didier Drogba, who was well below par in the opening victory over Togo. He was benched for the 3-0 win over Tunisia and in his absence the west Africans looked much slicker and threatening in front of goal. Nobody would doubt Drogba’s quality, but his ageing frame could become a burden for the side if coach Sabri Lamouchi feels he must select him in the later rounds. Drogba can put that perception to bed with a good showing here.

Drogba says he has no problem with being on the bench though, adding that the good of the team is all that matters. "There is no issue with me being benched and do not try and make a big deal out of it," he said. "The coach picks the team and we respect his decisions.

"That also goes for the other 22 players in the squad. Why should it be an issue that I was benched? I am happy to see Ivory Coast winning that is all that matters."

The Algerian Football Federation have publicly backed coach Vahid Halilhodzic, despite the team's early exit from a competition in which they were seen as contenders for the title. The Bosnian was coach of Cote d’Ivoire when they were eliminated by Algeria at the quarterfinals in the 2010 finals, and would love a victory in this match to boost his credentials amongst supporters.

It may well be that the side put in their best performance of the tournament now that the pressure is essentially off, and while it will be scant consolation for fans, it will give hope for the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers which resume in March.

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