Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughIvorians Close In On Brazil World Cup With A Squad To Be Feared - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Ivorians Close In On Brazil World Cup With A Squad To Be Feared - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Ivorians Close In On Brazil World Cup With A Squad To Be Feared

The Ivory Coast took a giant step towards a third consecutive World Cup appearance on Saturday, with a 3-1 victory over neighbours Senegal in Abidjan – had Papiss Cisse not scored for the visitors deep into stoppage time the tie would have looked as good as over.

This was a contest that received some hefty billing, given the intense rivalry between the nations and the fact that the last time the sides met was marred by trouble following the conclusion of the Ivorians win in another playoff to qualify for the last African Cup of Nations (ACON) tournament. Further to that, on the face of it both sides appear to have plenty of top European talent.

In truth, though, Senegal were always going to be up against it, their recent record is mixed at best, failing to make to the 2013 ACON following defeat in that earlier mentioned playoff and in the 2012 edition falling limply at the group stage despite being amongst the favourites. Look back further and things are not exactly encouraging with another absence at the 2010 ACON and in qualification for the World Cup in 2010 they did not even make it to the final 16 sides who took part in the third round.

On the surface you might think the Senegalese possess a strong squad, with the likes of Moussa Sow, Cisse, Demba Ba and Momo Diame. The problem they have is that the majority of their star names are all attackers and at that very similar styles of attacking options – so strong are they in this area that Ba was left out of the current squad due to his lack of football this year. Besides those mentioned there is little depth. In midfield there is a vast lack of creativity which somewhat nullifies the threat of their potent strike force and on the whole there is a genuine absence of experience and genuine quality within the group.

Compare all of this to their rivals and we start to see why Ivory Coast were so comfortable on Saturday. The Elephants are now seasoned major tournament campaigners, with two World Cup campaigns under their belts and reaching the knock out stages in the last five ACON tournaments. Yes, there are questions over their mental strength when the going does get tough – but in qualification and against significantly weaker sides they have been ruthless, just as they were on Saturday.

In recent years with each passing tournament we have heard how this is the last chance for their so called golden generation to shine and although there is more truth in that statement as time goes on, the mainstay of the side who were meant to take the continent by storm remains. The likes of Didier Drogba, Yaya and Kolo Toure, Didier Zokora and many others are not getting any younger but what they do bring is years of experience having played together for over a decade. Add in other slightly more youthful seasoned campaigners like Gervinho, Salomon Kalou and Cheick Tiote and you start to realise just why the Ivorians have been the most feared side on the continent for such a long time.

Taking all this into account, we start to see why we saw such a one sided clash on Saturday, had the error prone Boubacar Barry not produced one of his characteristic clangers things would have been as good as done – particularly with the away leg being played in a neutral venue.

Should the likely happen and Ivory Coast progress, then the usual questions will again begin to surface over whether they can finally make their mark. For this is a side who for all their talent have not picked up a single ACON title during these so called golden years, whilst on their previous two World Cup adventures they failed to escape the group – albeit after receiving difficult draws. There has been plenty of theories as to why they have struggled, largely revolving around mental frailties and also often playing in a conservative manner that didn’t quite suit their powerful talents.

To be fair to Senegal, Ivory Coast produced one of their better displays in recent times at the weekend – particularly impressive was the rejuvenated Gervinho who proved a constant a thorn to the Senegalese backline. It is far too early to say that they may finally have found a winning formula, with those mental frailties still lingering large but this time Ivory Coast really are running out of time and it really is now a case of now or never for them to make their mark.