The Colombians convincingly beat Greece 3-0 the other day with the team looking sharp and easy in the ball. Without even stepping above the second gear, Colombia showcased their might. Ivory Coast on the other hand were just too strong for Japan, literally. The Japanese were caught off guard by the strength and power of The Elephants as they gave up their 1-0 lead to lose 2-1. Both Ivory Coast and Colombia look like they would provide a good match for the neutrals as the Colombians who rely on a mixture of flair and directness would meet the powerful Ivorians led by Yaya Toure.
Team News, Key Players and Strategy
Ivory Coast dominated the game against the Japanese but facing Colombia would be an altogether different ball game. The Elephants will need to be sharp in defence with the opponents having a free flowing James Rodgriguez for their side while players like Jackson Martinez and Victor Ibarbo offer direct shooting threat to the defence. Boubacar Barry would be expected to start at goal as usual while Serge Aurier, Bamba, Zakora and Boka would be the most probable back four.
Serge Aurier is one of the most important players for the Ivorians as they rely on his crossing abilities and the energy and pace that he brings with him in the right side of the pitch along with his crucial interceptions and tackling as well. With Ivory Coast deploying big central strikers and midfielders, almost everyone is well capable of posing as an aerial threat and finishing off chances with ease as they have a great height advantage and with Aurier, they have a right-back who is happy to cross the ball.
The midfield is expected to be retained from the Japan match, with the likes of Basel and Newcastle destroyers Serey Die and Chieck Tiote while star man Yaya Toure will play ahead of them as the nation’s chief playmaker and central bulldozer. Yaya Toure would be required to drive his team by the horn and take the game by the scruff of the neck. His Manchester City form has been so good that he is considered to be one of the best central midfielders in the world. And with that reputation, he can demolish any team on his own, something which puts him in the same bracket of Xavi and Iniesta.
The Forward line is expected to be led by the likes of Wilfried Bony, Gervinho and Kalou. Bony will be the obvious target man who offers physicality and shooting techniques. Didier Drogba is expected to come on as a substitute as and when required.
Colombians would be buoyed by the fact that their talismanic midfielder Fredy Guarin back after suspension and he would be expected to replace Abel Aguilar from the line-up that faced Greece the other day. Guarin would be expected to match the contributions of counterpart Yaya Toure and would be an important deep midfield player.
Falcao’s absence was not felt the other day as the Colombians coolly beat the tough Greek defence with the creativity and trickery of James Rodriguez and his colleagues. The same would be expected in this game as Rodriguez remains the key player for the Colombians as he would be the key advanced playmaker with Victor Ibarbo and Gutierrez or Martinez expected to be the strikers while Juan Cuadrado playing wide.
With a lot of talk about the strikers and the attacking midfielders, the main job here is in the hands of the Colombian back four because they have to contain the likes of Drogba, Bony, Kalou, Gervinho and Toure, a bunch of attackers who offer a variety of attacking threats and challenges for a back four that may have to work hard to keep up with the pace and trickery of Gervinho and Kalou while also match the aerial threat and physicality of Bony and Drogba while dealing with Yaya Toure’s piercing runs with the ball, which has dismantled the likes of top Premier League defenders.
Cristian Zapata will have to be at his best as Mario Yepes has lost a lot of his mobility which can cripple the team in case of an outburst of attack by the rampant Ivorians. Skipper Yepes is a leader from the back, organising his back four which consists of Juan Zuniga and Pablo Armero in the full back positions.
In David Ospina, they have a good goalkeeper but they would really need to keep their defence nice and tight. Another factor here would be the utilisation of the aggressive defensive midfielder Carlos Sanchez who would drop deep time and again to protect the back four in case of a forward rampage by midfield maestro Guarin.
Author’s Predictions: Teams and Scoreline
Colombia: Ospina; Zuniga, Zapata, Yepes, Armero; Sanchez, Guarin; Cuadrado, Rodriguez, Ibarbo; Gutierrez
Ivory Coast: Barry; Aurier, Bamba, Zakora, Boka; Tiote, Die; Kalou, Toure, Gervinho; Bony
Predicted Scoreline: Colombia 1-1 Ivory Coast
It is expected to be closely fought and the teams have been underachievers for a long time. Colombia has shown a tendency to tighten up and sit back deep, something which may be the case in this match as well by allowing the Africans time on the ball. Ivory Coast on the other hand will look to be direct, yet it is hard to think of too many goals in this match.