Colombia and Ivory Coast are set to go head-to-head this evening as the World Cup continues. Here's the preview of the clash:
Both sides took an early advantage in a favourable group, with Colombia’s comprehensive win leaving them top on goal difference. Ivory Coast will be happy to have got the win under their belt after the difficult test posed by Japan, but the comeback victory inspired by the introduction of Didier Drogba means they head into the clash with Colombia on level terms.
A win for either side here will give them a foot in the second round, so both have a lot to play for. A draw would keep things ticking over nicely at the top of Group C, but both have a point to prove and want to continue their good form; Colombia are out to make their first appearance in the finals since 1998 a memorable one while Ivory Coast want the last outing of their ‘Golden Generation’ to result in moving onto the second round for the first time in their history.
Neither side is blessed in defence, and so both sides will be keen to work to their strengths in attack and also exploit their opponents weaknesses at the back. As a result an attacking game is likely, with both sides showing they can score goals at the highest level. Colombia demonstrated their pace and potency going forward in their defeat of conservative Greece, while Ivory Coast displayed power and their aerial threat in beating a technically better Japan side.
The sides have never met before, but both managers will have done their homework. Ivory Coast will have to use their physicality and silence the Colombians better than they did Japan in the early stages, and will look to shackle the likes of Gutierrez, Rodriguez and Cuadrado to nullify the forward play of the South Americans. If they can succeed, then they need to impose themselves in midfield and make more of Toure’s powerful runs, before working the ball to their attacking trio which might now contain Drogba from the beginning after his impact from the bench.
For Colombia it will be about sticking to their game; they are quicker and can attack with more speed, while a whole host of attacking options makes them clinical once they get the ball in the box. Bacca has been ruled out but he is just one of many strikers they can introduce to the game, and is unlikely to limit their attacking threat. If they can strike early they probably have the quality to see out the game better than Japan and are likely to score more. They will still have to be cautious of the Ivorians’ aerial prowess however which is their key strength, and Japan found to their detriment.
In the absence of Falcao, Teo Gutierrez lead the line well and caused problems in the box, making him a worry for Zokora and Bamba who both got themselves booked against Japan. Behind him, James Rodriguez was at the heart of Colombia and pulled the strings, even getting himself on the scoresheet with a late strike; his link-up play makes the attacking three around him a more cohesive unit and help to create more chances as a result. Pekerman also makes use of pace out wide, and Cuadrado was an energetic attacking force down the right hand side that will worry Ivory Coast’s less assured full-back Arthur Boka.
In spite of a less than reassuring first half performance, Arsenal target Serge Aurier redeemed himself in the second half and supplied two crosses in quick succession as he claimed two assists and Ivory Coast turned the tide. With Colombia’s usual adventurous wide play, Aurier could be a threat on the break if he finds the space. On the end of his crosses will be Ivory Coast’s powerful front three; while Gervinho and Bony grabbed the goals, the impact of Drogba cannot be denied and, even if he doesn’t start the game, his role from the bench could be crucial to inspiring The Elephants to victory.
For the entire first half against Japan, Ivory Coast looked lacklustre and off the pace, unable to deal with more skillful, quicker opposition. They will have to be aware to not fall into the same trap against Colombia, who are more explosive than the Asian side and have more guile in the box due to an array of clinical striking options. They may be better served to absorb pressure and break up play, before striking on the break through their wide options and utilise the power and pace they have up front to get the better of an ageing centre-back partnership.
Colombia will have their own weaknesses to exploit, and may opt for Jackson Martinez as more of a physical presence to match the Ivory Coast centre-backs and cause problems. Greece played a defensive game against them but were unable to keep them out, so Lamouchi’s men are likely to have similar difficulty in containing the Colombians if they are to better them on the break.
If Colombia can get an early goal as they did against Greece, the job becomes even more difficult for Ivory Coast and they may struggle against technically better players particularly as the game progresses. If they can impose themselves early on and stifle the Colombians creativity, they have a greater chance of lasting in the game and may be able to benefit if the defensive switches off as the game progresses and tiredness sinks in. Set pieces will also be important as a cross into the box could be key to a game changing goal for the the Ivorians. However Colombia will probably be able to edge them out and win the game, maintaining top spot in the group and more than likely qualifying for the second round.
Prediction: Colombia 3-1 Ivory Coast
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