Ivory Coast vs Algeria ( Suez Stadium, 17:00 CAT, July 11)
The quarter-finals of the 32nd edition of the AFCON continues today with two time winners Ivory Coast taking on 1990 winners Algeria at the Suez Stadium at 17:00 CAT for a place in the semi-finals against Senegal.
Ivory Coast who are in their 23rd AFCON appearance have won the trophy two times and lastly did so in 2015 and they eliminated Algeria in the quarter- finals before matching on to ultimate glory. They face a tough opponent in Algeria who have won all their first four games in the competition scoring nine goals and are yet to concede any.
Ivory Coast on their part had to dig deep to see off a youthful and very energetic Malian team which was let down by their poor finishing. Wilfried Zaha’s goal was the difference in a game that the Ivorians were fortunate to win.
With most of the other favourites already eliminated, these two teams are now strongly in contention for the big prize, but one has to make way at the end of this tie.
The Algerians have dominated and won their previous games, but the Ivorians will be a different kind of opponent.
The coach of the Elephants Ibrahim Kamara understands that the danger from this Algerian team can come from multiple sources so focusing on Riyad Mahrez who is the technical leader of the team will be a big error.
“Algeria is a great team. They do not only play with Riyad Mahrez. If so, the other players would stay in the locker room. We will face a team that is difficult to handle,” Kamara said.
“Djamel Belmadi has done an excellent job since he was made coach. I will not go so far as to say that I would have liked to avoid Algeria, because at this stage of the competition we have no choice.
“To be able to go all the way in this tournament, you have to play seven matches. We have played four, there are still three to go.
“We have to try and frustrate them to make sure that they loss a bit of their confidence so that we can exploit that. Algeria is a great team, playing for the final coronation. We have our idea about the Algerian team, that is collectively strong with good individuals,” the 53 year old Ivorian coach added.
Algeria are the third team to win their four first games in an AFCON campaign without conceding any goal, after Cameroon in 2002 and Ivory Coast in 2012.
There is no room for complacency for Belmadi’s men who will have to play even better against a more challenging opponent.
“We are now in a new stage where we will face difficulties, so we have to be aware. The players are determined and they will spare no effort to make the people happy,” Belmadi told reporters.
“We have to have a good reaction in the case of conceding a goal, a scenario that until now we have experienced during this competition. We’ll need to recover our poise and change the game to our favour,” he added.
This will be the eighth meeting between these two teams in the AFCON, with Elephants leading the Desert Foxes with three wins against two with the other two games ending in draws.
The Elephants of Ivory Coast will play their 10th AFCON quarter-final, only Ghana have played more (11). They have advanced in five of their last six knockout games in the competition (excluding the final).
Their Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha has scored two of their last three goals in the AFCON. He has scored in each of his past two games in the competition, after failing to do so in the first four.
Algeria are slight favourites to win this game, but Ivory Coast are a tricky and experienced opponent.
Players to Watch
Dazet Wilfried Armel Zaha (Ivory Coast)
Position: Winger Club: Crystal Palace Age: 26
Wilfried Zaha goal was the difference in Ivory Coast’s round of 16 win against Mali. He is growing in confidence as the tournament gets to the business end. On his day Zaha is simply unplayable.
Adam Ounas (Algeria)
Position: Midfielder: SSC Napoli Age: 22
Riyad Mahrez is Algeria’s most feared and celebrated player, but the Ivorians must not underestimate the goal threat that Napoli winger Adam Ounas with three goals already in the tournament poses. He has been involved in four of Algeria’s last six goals in the AFCON (three goals and one assist).