Date: January 20th, 2015
Venue: Nuevo Estadio de Malabo
Time: 18:00 (CAT)
Match Result: Ivory Coast 1 – 1 Guinea
Goal Scorers: 0-1, Mohamed Yattara 36’; 1-1, Seydou Doumbia 71’
The GSV Top Class Award
In an international tournament of this magnitude, very few gaffers have had the confidence to call up relatively young and inexperienced players and affording them the opportunities to display their abilities and establish themselves as some of Africa’s elite footballers; both gaffers showed the aptitude required to not only call-up their younger contingent, but also deploy them in a game of this importance. Michel Dussuyer started with two u/23 players in defence and a further two in attack, centre forward Mohamed Yattara repaid his manager’s faith with a goal while Naby Keïta added immense value to the side offensively; Baissama Sankoh and Issiaga Sylla were both solid on the defensive end, a defence that frustrated the Ivoirians for large quarters of the game with a high degree of defensive composure and awareness to boot. The Elephants gaffer Hervé Renard made some extremely brave decisions as well, handing out to debuts to defensive players in a defence that also featured Africa’s premier right fullback, Serge Aurier who just happens to be 22 years old; central defender Eric Bertrand Bailly started alongside Kolo Touré in defence at just 20 years of age while Wilfried Kanon played alongside him at left fullback, also making his debut, at the tender age of 21. Both gaffers are deserved winners of the GSV Top Class Award for the determination and confidence displayed in believing that they could effectively play younger footballers in the opening encounter of the biggest competition on the continent.
The GSV Class Clown Award
Although the lad was one of the front runners for the GSV Top Class Award prior to his moment of madness, Gervinho seemed like the only Ivory Coast attacker who realized that his side actually needed to score a couple of goals to win this encounter; the AS Roma forward seemed to have let the pressure get him worked up in a negative fashion, his lack of composure showed why the lad has always been regarded as an immense talent who couldn’t cut it at the elite level because of his lack of mental aptitude. Lashing out and slapping Naby Keïta after the youngster appeared to step on his toe, Gervinho was deservingly shown a red card that could have cost his already underperforming side the 3 points they needed in this encounter; the fact that he punched the ground in anger after deservedly being shown the red was a clear indication of his petulance. Although Gervinho stands out as the forerunner for the GSV Class Clown Award, his teammate and 4 time African Footballer of the Year winner Yaya Touré was far below the high benchmark he has personally set for himself in recent years; Yaya has failed to inspire The Elephants in the same fashion that he has inspired The Cityzens and that should be a cause for concern in the Ivorian football fraternity as their talented crop of footballers continues to underperform as they seek to bring their nation the first African Cup of Nations title since 1992.
The Grand Stand View
From the offset, both sides seemed like they had set up to give us an entertaining and open encounter with goals as the cherry on top; yet Guinea shocked their more illustrious opponents by stepping up to the plate and getting at The Elephants in a manner few had expected them to. The National Elephants were quick to close down their opponents and even quicker to break and launch attacks on the transition, placing the new-look Ivorian defence under immense pressure for large parts of the opening exchanges. Manchester City’s new megabucks signing Wilfried Bony seemed a tad bit off the pace and was continuously caught just a fraction away from where he ought to be as the central focus of the attacking line. A change in tactic could be the best way to get more out of the centre forward and his new club mate Yaya, who was also amazingly below par for so long in the game that he had to be substituted by his gaffer late on as the team chased a result. Guinea could consider themselves unfortunate not to have beaten The Elephants in an encounter they dominated before their opponents went a man down, the red card spurred the team on, thanks to a few tactical tweaks by the gaffer Renard, the Ivoirians wouldn’t have expected to be a goal behind at any part of this encounter; the fact that the equalizer came from a substitute proves that many members of the starting unit have again failed to underperform, this time around they can consider themselves fortunate to escape this encounter with a point to spare their blushes.