Having already qualified for the knockout rounds before Wednesday’s game, Ivory Coast manager Sabri Lamouchi chose to make nine changes. But when given an opportunity to make a name for themselves, Arthur Boka, Daniel Yeboah and company instead showed exactly why they should remain on the bench. For much of the game, the tournament favourites disappointed – ineffectual in attack and disaster-prone in defence, with goalkeeper Yeboah proving a dubious lowlight. While first-choice Boubacar Barry is often seen as the weak link in the Ivorian side, he looked a class apart from the replacement who flapped at incoming balls throughout. Wednesday’s game has proven that the ‘Golden Generation’ lacks depth – if Lamouchi loses one of them, his replacement will be anything but valuable.
You cannot underestimate how important Didier Drogba is to the Ivory Coast, yet he was in danger of being forgotten at this Africa Cup of Nations. Blunted in the first game and unused in the second, many wondered if the former Chelsea striker had lost sharpness after his spell in China. We shouldn’t have worried – after almost 80 minutes of insipid play from the Elephants, Drogba did what the great players do – he turned the game on a sixpence. With his towering 12-yard header forcing his team-mates to raise their game, he found himself back donning the saviour role for his nation once again. Nigeria are the inconsistent Ivorians’ opponents for the quarter-final, and faced with such formidable opposition Lamouchi might trust his captain to repeat the trick.
If Togo wish to progress any further in the Africa Cup of Nations 2013, any goals will certainly come from the Floyd Ayite-Emmanuel Adebayor partnership. The Sparrow Hawks made it to their first quarter-finals after a nervous second-half performance where decisions went against them. Togo’s first goal came from Adebayor releasing Serge Gakpe, but Ayite initiated the cross. The Stade de Reims midfielder was lethal on the wing against Tunisia, and Togo will desperately need Ayite to feed their main man – Adebayor – if they have any hope of scoring in their clash against Burkina Faso on Sunday. Adebayor, who nearly didn’t return to the Africa Cup of Nations after the attack his Togo side suffered at the 2010 competition and his dispute with the Togolese government over match bonuses, is clearly the driving force of the side. And the Sparrow Hawks know that the performance of their captain will determine their fate in the final stages.
ENHANCED ODDS: 9/1 on Liverpool, Atletico and Villarreal