The Ivory Coast have been one of the brightest sides in the World Cup so far, but they still have work to do to cross the group-stage line.
Their 2-1 loss to Columbia last week has blown Group C wide open, allowing Greece to sneak into the last 16 with a victory over the African nation on Tuesday with Japan also in with a chance if they can find a way past Colombia.
However, Sabri Lamouchi’s side will be in no mood to fall at the final hurdle, and despite never having got past the group stage in the World Cup finals, they will expect to record a victory against Greece to make history in Fortaleza.
Venue: Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza
Date: Tuesday, June 24
Time: 9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET
TV Info: BBC (TBC)/ESPN2 (U.S.)
Ivory Coast 90 Minutes Away from Last 16
A draw or better should see the Ivory Coast through to the knockout stage on Tuesday, and based on their opening performances against Japan and Colombia, that shouldn’t be a problem.
They showed grit and determination to come from behind against the Japanese in their opening match and were unlucky to go down 2-1 to Colombia, but manager Lamouchi is still coming under criticism for his team selection.
Wilfried Bony has started alone up front for the Ivory Coast in their opening matches, leaving national hero Didier Drogba limited to a role on the bench.
However, as Opta Joe revealed, Bony’s impact against the Colombians was far from impressive and a shake-up may be in order:
0 – Wilfried Bony failed to register a single touch in the opposition box during this match. Timid.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 19, 2014
Drogba has scored 40 goals in just 59 appearances for the Ivory Coast, according to SoccerWay, but has been forced to play second fiddle to Bony of late.
More bad news for the Galatasaray star is that Lamouchi appears unwilling to change his mind and said that he’s happy with his current selection—per Sky Sports:
“I am not obsessed with Didier Drogba. If you look at the team, I have seen very interesting things from my players.”
The Frenchman went on to say that his side were unlucky to lose the game against Colombia and that they will be going all out to win Tuesday’s match against Greece:
It is just a few details that we missed, and that meant we lost the game. My players did not deserve to lose, a draw would have been more deserved. It was a very experienced Colombian team who waited for us to make mistakes, unfortunately we made some and were hit in a hard way. We created some chances and came back to score, so I feel we lost unfairly. We will need to go and fight to get a victory against Greece, it is very simple. I do not see any other way to qualify.
With the Ivory Coast throwing everything that they have at Greece in Fortaleza, it’s likely that the 2004 European champions will be heading out of the tournament with a whimper, having failed to score a single goal so far.
They looked incredibly sloppy in their 3-0 opening-match loss to Colombia and likewise in the 0-0 draw with Japan last week, though their saving grace was keeping a clean sheet for the first time in many a World Cup match—per WhoScored.com:
Greece: Have kept a clean sheet for the first time in their 8 World Cup finals matches #gre— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 19, 2014
While the draw will have given Fernando Santos and Co. confidence heading into their final group match, they need a dramatic improvement if they’re to stand any chance of keeping their World Cup dreams alive.
However, such is the strength of the Ivory Coast that they’re looking like both tactically and mentally outwitting the Greeks to progress to the last 16 for the first time.
Whether it’s Bony or Drogba who starts up front at the Arena Castelao, they’ll likely enjoy playing against Greece’s shaky back line and could fire Ivory Coast into the history books.
Prediction: Greece 0-2 Ivory Coast