Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Lessons as late goals settle Group D openers

Africa Cup of Nations 2013: What lessons did we learn after two late goals decided the outcomes of the Group D openers?

didier drogba
Ex-Chelsea man Didier Drogba looked off the pace on Tuesday Photo: The Sport Review

didier drogba

Didier Drogba off the pace for Ivory Coast

Much has been made of the importance of Ivory Coast target man Didier Drogba. Captain and top goal-scorer with 59 strikes, he is seen as the man to lead the Ivorians to their first Afcon success since 1992. But regardless of the former Chelsea man’s past, his performance in the Elephants’ laboured victory over Togo suggests he is far from anywhere near his best. Lacking in competitive fitness having finished the playing season with Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua in November, the 34-year-old’s clearest chance was a 35-yard free-kick that almost went into orbit above the stadium. Suffering the ignominy of being substituted in the 74th minute, he had better get his shooting boots on fast if he wants to bow out of his last Afcon on a high.

Premier League players brighten up the competition

While many Premier League managers bemoan losing their players to the Africa Cup of Nations, spectators of the tournament are arguably benefiting from their presence. Group D’s opening game between Ivory Coast and Togo featured no less than five Premier League players in the form of Ivory Coast’s Gervinho, Kolo and Yaya Toure, Cheick Tiote and Togo’s Emmanuel Adebayor. Then there was also former Chelsea man Drogba. With stand-out performers Yaya Toure and Gervinho both capping fine performances with goals, there is no arguing that Premier League players bring a touch of poise and composure that often goes astray in some of the tournament’s matches. The only question is can the Elephants – possessing the largest Premier League contingent – use such experience to claim the trophy.

Algeria’s lack of international experience could cost them

Coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s pre-tournament decision to leave stars with experience of playing in Britain – like ex-Portsmouth midfielder Nadir Belhadj and former Rangers centre-half Madjid Bougherra – at home surprised some. Following the loss to Tunisia though, he might rue snubbing his more well-known stars, especially when not one of his selections has played more than 30 times for the Fennec Foxes. Their lack of clinical finishing proved to be their downfall against the Tunisians, with Sofiane Fengouli hitting the bar and Marseille’s Foued Kadir miskicking a glorious chance mid-way through the first-half. For a team Fifa rank as the second best in Africa, the 1990 winners may struggle to qualify from arguably the most difficult group in the tournament. Algeria dominated in all aspects of their clash against Tunisia – bar the one that really matters – and that could cost them.

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