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It’s fair to say that former French international Sabri Lamouchi hasn’t enjoyed the best debut to his management career with the Ivory Coast.
He was an odd choice to take the reins, due to his inexperience and the absence of any previous connection to the nation, and has struggled to convince to date.
He took a side that hadn’t conceded a single goal during the 2012 Cup of Nations and delivered a stodgy insipid affair at the tournament one year later.
The defence, in particular, has declined, and Lamouchi has done little to resolve the concerns at centre-back. Similarly, he has arguably mismanaged his offensive resources, and it was a major surprise when Seydou Doumbia, who has enjoyed such fine form in Russia, was overlooked for the final squad of 23.
Against Japan, however, Lamouchi earned his keep.
The manager’s initial approach invited pressure onto the team, but he was proactive at half-time, changing things around and pushing the dangerous Serge Aurier and Arthur Boka into offensive positions.
The former, in particular, relished the attacking brief.
While Lamouchi could arguably be criticised for ignoring Didier Drogba in the first place, he had the foresight to change things around and didn’t leave it too late to rearrange his options, as Volker Finke had done for Cameroon earlier in the competition.
When he did introduce Drogba, he didn’t take the easy, predictable option and make a straight swap for Bony, instead, he took off Serey Die and played the two frontmen together.
While the former Chelsea striker didn’t directly influence the goals, his very introduction lifted the side and helped turn the tide in the Elephants’ favour. This didn’t come at the expense of Bony (or his confidence), and, indeed, the Swansea forward managed to score the equaliser with a glancing header.