Date: January 24th, 2015
Venue: Nuevo Estadio de Malabo
City: Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
Time: 18:00 (CAT)
Match Result: Ivory Coast 1 – 1 Mali
Goal Scorers: Bakary Sako (7′); Max Gradel (87′)
The GSV Top Class Award
Group D has so far been characterised by 1 – 1 draws, with all four teams having registered 2 points from 2 draws, and while most viewers consider this to be a boring set of results, it presents an exciting pair of encounters going into the final round of the group stages.
The Fixture between the Ivory Coast and Mali was indicative of just how entertaining a 1 all draw can be, with both sides coming to the party with something special. Our GSV Top Class Award goes to a man who produced what we believe is the best goal of the tournament so far, Mr Bakary Sako. There is an unwritten law in football that says if you manage a period of dominance and ascendency, you have to capitalise on the chances you create, and when Mali were quicker out of the starting blocks than their Ivorian opponents, one wondered if they would make the most of their start by taking the lead. Up stepped Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Sako, who found himself the space and the class to strike a gem of a shot past the Ivory Coast keeper. Strikes like that one have been a rare commodity in this tournament, and for that, Bakary Sako, sir, we give you the GSV Top Class Award.
The GSV Class Clown Award
While Ivory Coast’s last fixture saw Gervinho stand out as the class clown by way of a red card, this encounter spared the Elephants the honour of stealing this award. The GSV Class Clown Award must sadly go to the Mali defence. Having gone up early in the match, they had to endure large amounts of Ivorian pressure, as the Elephants launched stampede after stampede in a bid to affect the outcome of the fixture. The defence absorbed the pressure adequately, and were able to protect their goalkeeper for most part of the game. But as every coach will remind their players in the build up to a game, football is a 90 minute game and concentration is key for all of these 90 minutes. While we applaud the Ivory Coast for grabbing the late equaliser, and Max Gradel for scoring it, we believe he should never have been afforded that much space in that part of the field. The defence stood back, and when the cut back came in, the keeper was left exposed, and for that, Mali’s central defensive pairing walk away with the GSV Class Clown Award.
The Grand Stand View
For a group that has now been dubbed ‘The Group Of Draws’, Group D has produced it’s fair share of entertainment, and this fixture was no exception to this. Apart from the wonder strike from Sako and the dramatic late equaliser, it was overall one of the better games the tournament has produced, and both sides will accept that they could have won the game but for poor finishing. The Ivory Coast, who increased the intensity of their play after going down, will feel the greater disappointment at not winning, but will be as content with the fact that they did manage to steal a point. The Mali side, who had the better of the opening exchanges, will be disappointed that they were unable to maintain that pressure after going ahead. Instead they sat back and took on a defensive approach, and in a tournament where a 1-0 lead has proved to be insufficient, and in the group that has been the best evidence of this, they will consider themselves lucky that they didn’t lose.
The final fixtures now become all the more important, with all 4 teams on the same number of points and identical goal difference. It will be interesting to see whether these two sides will go into their next fixtures with an attacking mentality or if they will play a nervous game aimed at not losing, as a draw might also be enough to go through. The Group of draws owes the footballing public a victory, and our hope is that it will happen in the last round, when it is most important.