FIVE KEY BATTLES: Ivory Coast vs Ghana
As we countdown to the biggest game on the African football calender, we assess the key battles that could have a telling effect between Ivory Coast and Ghana.
Both sides will be vying for the win to end their long wait for the continental trophy. With so much at stake between the two West African neighbours, a key battle won could influence the outcome of this eagerly anticipated AFCON final.
How will this pressure affect the players and how would they square up against each other? We decided to look at some key battles.
Jonathan Mensah v Wilfried Bony
You don’t become the most expensive African footballer ever without some ability and in Wilfied Bony, Ivory Coast have a man capable of filling the boots of the legend that is Didier Drogba. He has become the focal point of Les Elephants attack and has risen to the task by scoring and assisting his team mates. His strength, skill and aerial ability would be a massive job and the man who will probably try to stop him is Jonathan Mensah. The Evian man seems to have been around a long time but at still only 24, he has the experience to deal with Bony on this stage. Blessed with immense physical attributes, the Ghana number 19 will not be easily shaken off. The 2013-14 season saw Mensah win the most aerial duels by an African in the top five leagues in Europe. The World Youth Cup winner will need to draw on all his physical and aerial powers to deal with the Man City man.
Yaya Toure v Afriyie Acquah
The multiple winner of the best player in Africa is unplayable on his day. But on the continent’s biggest stage, the giant Ivorian and his team mates tagged the ‘golden generation’ have failed to live up to expectations. The Manchester City man reminded us of his qualities by scoring a screamer in the semi-final against DR Congo. Afriyie Acquah of Parma is relatively new on the international stage and didn’t begin Ghana’s AFCON campaign as a starter for the BlackStars. But he has grown into the position and formed a formidable partnership with Wakaso Mubarak in Ghana’s midfield. He is blessed with brutal strength and has the energy to make recoveries up and down the pitch. He is tenacious in the tackle and reads the game well. He will have to be at his best to stop Yaya’s influence which could be vital.
Baba Rahman v Gervinho
The rising star of Ghana football Baba Rahman has shown his maturity in the Black Stars run to the final. The Aursburg left-back has attracted admirers amongst Europes elite and its easy to see why. He gets forward at will and defends with maturity. He will need all these qualities against the marauding Gervinho. The Roma forward comes to light on the continents biggest stage and has already contributed to The Elephants run to the final even though he missed two games through suspension. If Rahman can put a halt on the piercing runs of Gervinho, The Black Stars will have one less threat to deal with.
Serge Aurier v Andre Ayew
Andre Ayew has so far been the talisman for Ghana. His three goals has put him in contention for the Most Valuable Player award and rightly so. Though he started slow, the Marseille winger has led by example and Ghana will draw on his AFCON final experience as he is one of the three surviving starters from the 2010 edition. His late runs into the box and in-behind could be vital to the BlackStars unlocking The Elephants doors. PSG man Serge Aurier is no stranger to Andre Ayew as they both ply their trade in the French Ligue. Aurier has become more influential for The Elephants offering an outlet when Gervinho or Gradel wonder inside in search of the ball. His defensive capabilities are questionable at times but he makes up for this with great recovery when caught. He has pace to burn and will be able to match Ayew on that front. This duel is one you can’t take your eyes away from.
Asamoah Gyan v Kolo Toure
Experience of the AFCON is what both Kolo Toure and Asamoah Gyan have in abundance. This will probably be the Ivorian’s last Nations Cup and he will want to leave on a high. He has be a calming influence at the back for Ivory Coast in a somewhat inexperienced back-line. What he lacks is pace is but he makes up for this with his excellent positioning and reading of the game. ‘Baby Jet’ as Gyan is known could be just the man to exploit the shortcomings of the Ivorian back-line. His presence alone should serve as a massive outlet for Ghana if they have to change their style at anytime in the game. Gyan is capable of moments of brilliance and has been the main man for Ghana up-front over the past decade. Would The Black Stars be happy with similar heroics that he displayed against Algeria earlier in the tournament? He has it in the locker.
Who will come out on top between Ivory Coast and Ghana? Will Yaya Toure score against the Black Stars? Could Ghana cause an upset? Have your say by commenting below…