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06
Feb 2012
10:05
African Nations Cup - Quarter Finals, by Rafa Benitez

Professional Football

Rafa Benítez

The current African Nations Cup is progressing and coming towards a conclusion. We have been looking at the quarter finals and we have made several observations which we can share with you.

Ivory Coast, 3-Equatorial Guinea, 0.


Firstly many people saw the Ivory Coast as favourites, but were hoping Guinea could spring a surprise because they had done so well in the tournament. In the end, as forecast, Ivory Coast proved it on the pitch. They started with a 1-4-1-4-1, with Drogba (11) as target striker, although they did change systems several times, with Gosso (6) as right back at first and Gervinho (10) open and high on the right, then some players swapping positions to move to a 1-4-2-3-1 in the second half, giving Yaya Toure (19) freedom behind Drogba.

Whatever system was played by either team, it was clear Ivory Coast were better. They moved the ball patiently if they could not find space to penetrate and countered quickly when they were in the lead and had more space to run into.

As for Equatorial Guinea they started with 1-4-4-1-1, which could convert to 1-4-2-3-1 according to the movements of the wide players. They worked hard as a team, tried to counter quickly, but did not cause too many problems for the Ivory Coast defenders who did not have to work that hard. Their players tried to play out from the back but with little threat. As the game went on, they became more disorganised and had problems against counter attacks which they tried to play offside against on occasions.

Ivory Coast go through to the semi-finals thanks to 2 goals by Drogba. The first was a defensive mistake which he took advantage of and the second was a great header from a wide free kick. The third, a free kick by Yaya Toure, was a great goal which only confirmed the Ivory Coast superiority. With quality players with International experience, penetration in the wide areas by Gradel (15) and Gervinho, Ivory Coast are still favourites to win the final.

Zambia 3 Sudan 0.

In the first half you could see Zambia’s superiority over Sudan, with a 1-4-4-2 system, and one of the strikers, Katongo (11) and the player wide on the left, Kalaba (17), being dangerous.The first goal came through poor communication between the goalkeeper and a defender who allowed Sunzu (13) to be unmarked to head in from inside the 6 yard box. Zambia showed their quality, with quick transitions, good pace in 1v1 situations and width in attack. They had more of the ball and controlled the game.

In the second half Sudan only had joy in set pieces and the occasional counter, but the Zambian defence held firm. The play for the second goal, with Kabala (17) arriving at pace and the foul by Saif Eldin (9) which brought a second yellow and a sending off, left Sudan with no options and with the scoreline 0-2. The third goal, good work by Chamanga (12), was well constructed and finished the game off.

Sudan are good physically with pace but inconsistent tactically with problems behind their back line and with 10 men had no real chance to come back. Zambia go through to the semis.

Gabón, 1 -Mali 1.

In the tie between Gabon and Mali, the host team began with a system of 1-4-4-2, although they changed shape in the second half to 1-4-2-3-1. Gradually, they were losing control of the game and got to the final few minutes without anything left to level the match. They had some good counter attacks with Aubameyang and good penetration in the wide areas, especially on the left with Mouloungui. Goussin kept the ball well giving the players in the second line time to support. With Marcolino coming on for Goussin they lost some threat and mobility in attack. In the end, Aubameyang stood out again with his pace and versatility, as well as Mouloungui with his ability 1v1. The young player, Poko, also stood out with his work rate.

As for Mali, they went through on penalties and had more physically than the opposition. They used a 1-4-2-3-1 system with some defensive adjustments. However, they gradually imposed themselves mentally with their capacity to respond. They took advantage of their direct play with flick-ons and second balls and were better than Gabon in the air.
Maiga moved well between lines creating superiority and Diabete, when he came on, occupied the centre backs which allowed his team mates to support from the second line. Keita was another key player, not only because he took the last and winning penalty, but also because of the stability he brought to midfield.

Ghana 2 Tunisia 1.

In the last tie of the quarter finals, Ghana beat Tunisia after extra time with it finishing 1-1 after 90 minutes. Mensah had put the Ghanaians ahead early in the first half and Saber Khelifa equalised just before half time. The deciding goal, in extra time, was scored by Andre Ayew.

Ghana started with a 1-4-2-3-1 although during the game could convert to 1-4-1-4-1 and they were good physically and worked hard. They could drop off quickly and organised, getting numbers behind the ball, and they were able to control important phases of the game. This time they showed compactness, intensity and discipline in defence, they covered each other well and showed balance and good distances between the lines, especially in extra time, and they were much more intelligent than the opposition and knew how to adapt better in each situation during the game. Offensively, they were better on the right (with A Ayew left footed playing on the right), they had good movements between lines (especially Asamoah), and used their set plays well (for example, at a corner, they played to the near post and Gyan flicked the ball on with Mensah coming in at the back) and they showed a good defence-attack balance. They came out with the ball better in the wide areas and penetrated better wide. A Ayew showed good movements from out to in (on his opposite foot), as we said before, using wall passes with Gyan, changes of pace in attack and runs behind the defence, with some quality from their second striker Asamoah. A Badu had a good work rate.As for Tunisia, they used a 1-4-2-3-1 and looked better technically and with individual ability. Especially in the opposition half (with Msekni, Dhaouadi and Khelifa) although their work rate was not as high and team work was not as good as the opposition. They had some good spells in the game, but were inconsistent, their build up and transitions were not fluent or quick and at times, especially in the second half, played long without much success. They had problems when the opposition pressed them in their own half, especially in the second half and extra time, they were unable to maintain a good balance with good distances between lines, and their dropping off and covering was quite disorganised.

Msekni, good movements again. Mobility, versatile in the first or second lines with ability at pace. Good work rate from Khelifa and at times good runs behind the centre backs (that’s how the goal came). In the final minutes, there were a lot of nerves, loss of the ball and a sending off to complete an anxious extra time.