Rusty Ivory Coast tackle angry Algeria

CABINDA, Angola - Rusty Ivory Coast face angry Algeria at Chiazi Stadium on Sunday with an Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals place at stake.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sat 23 Jan 2010, 3:07 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:07 AM

An Ivorian ‘Elephants’ squad boasting stars like Didier Drogba and brothers Kolo and Yara Toure are fancied to defeat the star-less Algerian ‘Desert Foxes’ in the second quarter-final of the biennial African football showpiece.

Tradition also tilts toward the west Africans, who have won four of five matches at this stage while Algeria have lost all three, ahead of a game that sees two of the five African qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup square off.

Ivory Coast also shade previous clashes between the countries, winning two, losing one while the 1988 clash was drawn 1-1 in Morocco where Ivory Coast suffered the agony of being ousted by a draw of lots after the first round.

But Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic has his concerns ahead of the fixture, the last of four to be staged at a new 20,000-seat stadium in this oil-rich northern enclave where a fatal pre-tournament ambush led to Togo withdrawing.

Chief among them is rustiness brought about by an eight-day gap between beating Ghana 3-1 to ultimately finish top of Group B and facing Algeria, Group A runners-up to Angola.

Only once before has this occurred and Halilhodzic will not be cheered to know Liberia suffered a 2-0 defeat by Democratic Republic of Congo in South Africa and were eliminated.

The absence of Togo created the schedule gap and Halilhodzic admitted to reporters this could upset plans to return the Nations Cup back to Ivory Coast after an 18-year absence.

“So many days without playing a competitive match - that is no good,” said the man who took charge after a fourth-place 2008 Nations Cup finish in Ghana triggered the sacking of German Uli Stielike.

Refereeing and the state of the Chiazi Stadium pitch are other issues that trouble Halilhodzic, who fears failure to capture the trophy will lead to his dismissal before the World Cup.

“I’m really angry about the refereeing - it’s too much,” he said after a cynical foul by Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboue brought a red card and an automatic one-game ban that rules him out of the Algeria fixture.

“The poor quality of the Cabinda turf hampers attacking teams. It is really demanding to play in very hot temperatures and the state of the pitch does not help my players.”

Algeria coach Rabah Saadane is not particularly happier either despite achieving his primary goal of qualifying for the last eight of a tournament first staged 53 years ago in Sudan.

The five-time ‘Foxes’ coach, who cuts a doleful figure with droopy eyes and a walrus moustache, has been angered by negative domestic media coverage and allegations of a ‘fixed’ draw with Angola.

“I feel unappreciated,” said the coach who sprang the shock of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers on the continent by taking Algeria to South Africa at the expense of African champions and bitter rivals Egypt.

Saadane admitted telling his players to “take it easy” as a dour defensive duel with the host nation petered out, knowing a draw would take them through at the expense of Mali on head-to-head record.

But he angrily rejected the suggestion of a Malian journalist that the result had been contrived as Algeria reached the quarter-finals after scoring just one goal in 270 minutes, and that from a defender.

The winners face Egypt, chasing a record third consecutive title and seventh overall, or four-time champions Cameroon in a January 28 semi-final scheduled for the central coastal city of Benguela.

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