Didier Drogba has his eyes on the continental prizeThe African Cup of Nations is progressing well and coming towards a conclusion. We have been looking at the quarter-finals and we have made several observations which we can share.
Ivory Coast 3-0 Equatorial Guinea
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 their superiority on the pitch. They started with a 4-1-4-1 formation with Drogba (wearing number 11) as target man. However, they did change systems several times with Jean-Jacques Gosso (6) as right-back at first and Gervinho (10) open and high on that side, then some players swapping positions to move to a 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 into which they could run.
As for Equatorial Guinea they started with 4-4-1-1, which could convert to 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 occasion.
Ivory Coast go through to the semi-finals thanks to two 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. Ivory Coast's third, a free-kick by Yaya Toure, was a great goal which only confirmed their superiority. With quality players with plenty of international experience, penetration in the wide areas by Max Gradel (15) and Gervinho, Ivory Coast deserve to retain their status as favourites to win the tournament.
Zambia 3-0 SudanZambia captain Christopher Katongo
In the first half you could see Zambia's superiority over Sudan, with a 4-4-2 system. One of the strikers, Christohper Katongo (11) and the player wide on the left, Rainford Kalaba (17), were both very dangerous.
The first goal came through poor communication between the goalkeeper and a defender who allowed Stophira Sunzu (13) to be unmarked to head in from inside the six-yard box. Zambia showed their quality, with quick transitions, good pace in one-on-one 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 Kalaba arriving at pace and the foul by Saif Eldin (9) which brought a second yellow and a sending off, left Sudan two goals down and with no options. The third goal, good work by James 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. With 10 men they had no real chance to come back. Zambia go through to the semis.
Gabon 1-1 Mali (aet, Mali win 5-4 on penalties)Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed the crucial penalty
In the tie between Gabon and Mali, the co-hosts began with a system of 4-4-2, although they changed shape in the second half to 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 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and good penetration in the wide areas, especially on the left with Eric Mouloungui. Daniel Cousin kept the ball well giving the players in the second line time to support. With Fabrice do Marcolino coming on for Cousin 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 one-on-one. The young player, Andre Biyogo 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 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.
Modibo Maiga moved well between lines creating superiority and Cheick Diabete, when he came on, occupied the centre-backs which allowed his team-mates to support from the second line. Seydou 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 2-1 Tunisia (aet)Andre Ayew celebrates his goal with brother Jordan
In the last tie of the quarter-finals, Ghana beat Tunisia after extra time with it finishing 1-1 after 90 minutes. John 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 4-2-3-1, although during the game could convert to 4-1-4-1, and they were good physically and worked hard. They could drop off quickly and were 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 the left-footed A Ayew playing on the right), they had good movements between lines (especially Kwadwo Asamoah), used their set plays well (for example, at a corner, they played to the near post and Asamoah 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, playing one-twos with Gyan, changing pace in attack and running behind the defence, with some quality from their second striker Asamoah. Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu also displayed a good work rate.
As for Tunisia, they used a 4-2-3-1 and looked better technically and with individual ability. Especially in the opposition half (with Youssef Msakni, Zouheir Dhaouadi and Saber Khelifa) although their work rate was not as high and the 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, and they 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.
Msakni showed good movement again. He was mobile and versatile in the first or second lines with ability at pace. There was a 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.
Taken from www.rafabenitez.com