Essien Faces Drogba As They Fight For Bronze
Essien Faces Drogba As They Fight For Bronze Website
Highly prized Chelsea duo, Michael Essien and Didier Drogba, will go at each other in today’s clash for bronze between the Black Stars and the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi. And it will be a thriller fit for the final as Drogba and Essien represent sides that had been touted among the favourites to win the 26th African Cup of Nations before they both got knocked out at the semi-final stage. In the circumstance, victory for the Black Stars in Kumasi today is a must and the players have a duty to go all out to achieve it to appease dejected soccer fans in the Garden City and across the length and breadth of a country that is so passionate about football at this level. Refreshingly, notwithstanding the sullen faces many people wear in Kumasi following the Black Stars' loss to Cameroun, there is a high degree of certainty that it will in no way affect the support base of the team as they encounter Cote d'Ivoire in the third place match at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium today. For many in the city, even though they feel hurt by the team's inability to reach the final, they take consolation in the fact that they will watch the Stars live at Baba Yara. Many were converging on the Kumasi Airport this afternoon to welcome the team from Accra, a signal of their resolve to cheer them for victory against the Elephants today. But a lot depends on the players to put the semi-final defeat behind them and work hard to overcome the Elephants who are also red-eyed and are looking for prey to appease hordes of their fans who travelled from far and near to support them in their humiliating 1-4 loss to Egypt. Having starved their nations of continental honours for long periods of time, the two teams were highly tipped by the bookmakers to make it to the grand finale of the ongoing 26th MTN Africa Cup of Nations, but fate had consigned them to fighting for the bronze. Whether the Black Stars like it or not, that is the situation they find themselves in and nothing but a plucky performance will bring some life into a nation that went dead last Thursday night. The devastating effect of the losses to the two tournament favourites could manifest in a game devoid of real flavour. But considering the fact that both teams may want to calm down their fans in a way, the match could produce some fire. On that score, expect Cote d'Ivoire to give Ghana a tough challenge. Before last Thursday's massacre, the Ivorian defence was touted to be the toughest in the tournament, having conceded just one goal in four games. But at least Egypt has drummed home the fact that the Ivorian back line is susceptible to swift attacking play. This is what the Black Stars must capitalise on to score the goals, especially as the two main Ivorian goalkeepers get the jitters when their protective cover comes under attack. Fortunately for the Black Stars, they will see the return of Captain John Mensah from suspension. Mensah's absence from the match against Cameroun brought all sorts of trauma to the back of the team and his return will free Essien to carry out his traditional midfield role. Notwithstanding the re-emergence of Mensah, no one needs remind the Black Stars that the Elephant is wounded and could be dangerous if let loose. The team must, therefore, be on high alert for Didier Drogba, Aruna Dindane and Salomon Kalou. Indeed, their manager, Gerard Gili, typified the determination to restore some of the lost pride with a win over Ghana today. He said what happened to them in the game against Egypt was one of the things that occurred in football but hoped to regroup for an image-redemption exercise today. In spite of the disappointing performance in the semi-final, the coach is likely to keep faith with the starting-line up to their last game that featured the likes of Drogba, Kalou, Dindane, Boka, Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure, Meite and Zokora. Ghana's coach Claude Le Roy may be forced to reshuffle the team that played against Cameroun and it will not be a surprise to see the return of Asamoah Djan to the fold to add pressure on the Ivorian defence.