By Fred Kaweesi in Fortaleza
Greece v Ivory Coast (Today at 11pm)
The other day, as a white Hyundai bus strolled across the streets of Aguas de Lindoia, chants could be heard emerging from the inside.
The Ivory Coast team was on its way back from training ahead of today’s make-or-break match against Greece.
Normally, the mood would have been somber considering that a few days earlier the Toure brothers (Yaya and Kolo) and lost a brother Ibrahim Toure.
As the gates closed behind them, a swarm of sweating journalists and photographers gathered for the daily press conference, hoping to hear the latest about Didier Drogba situation.
The media and Ivory Coast fans are both bothered as to why Drogba can’t start a game for the Elephants.
Drogba has had to come off the bench in their opening two Group C matches, playing a decisive role in the first game against Japan but proving relatively ineffectual in the 2-1 loss to Colombia.
The Ivorians, with a draw and a win already, are still in it, and will go for a win against Greece. PHOTO/AFP
When Drogba was asked what he felt, his reaction was cold.
“Why always questions about me? You want to sensationalise things but the most important thing is the team,” Drogba to the media.
Asked if he felt frustrated, Drogba added: “I cannot always express what I feel. It’s the choice of coach and I respect that.”
The case for Drogba to start is strengthened by his statistics for the national team.
His record for his country is unrivalled with 63 goals in 103 appearances and, even if unlikely to complete a full 90 minutes, his presence would be an intimidating sight for Greece.
Although Drogba’s relegation to the bench has been blamed on his conditioning by coach Sabri Lamouchi, it has been clear for some time that Wilfried Bony had usurped the 36-year-old in the national team’s pecking order.
A win will literally guarantee Ivory Coast a place in the next stage.
Ivory Coast has flattered to deceive in its two previous campaigns, where they failed to progress from their groups in 2006 and 2010.
Greece players training ahead of their final group game with African side Ivory Coast. PHOTO/AFP
Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou, who took a hit to his side and had to be taken off during their World Cup Group C draw against Japan on Thursday, will return for the game.
Mitroglou became Greece’s most expensive export when he joined English side Fulham in January for a reported 15 million euros.
He is why Ivory Coast will need both central defenders Didier Zokora and x steady to snuff out the opponents’ principal threat.
Ivory Coast will also need to penetrate better down that flank through Gervinho and create a pressure point. Speed on the counter will be the key - with quick passing and pace, with and without the ball, from the middle third.
Greece are a side of limited quality, but they are very good at defending leads.
Lamouchi is an excellent tactician but will need to settle for the right system from the onset.
He changed the formation of his team three times during Ivory Coast’s come-from-behind-victory over Japan in their first match of the World Cup.
While such tactical proactivity is usually to be applauded, it could also mean that he did that because he had started with the wrong players at the start.
Against Colombia, the Elephants were second best.
They will not afford that against the Greeks.
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Greece v Ivory Coast: match preview