Colombia are planning to rely on a possession game to combat the speed and power of Ivory Coast when the two sides meet in Brasilia on Thursday. Colombia top the group after a dominant 3-0 victory over Greece while Ivory Coast hit back from a goal down to beat Japan 2-1.
The Japanese struggled to make their high-tempo, high-energy gameplan work against the Africans but Colombia midfielder Fredy Guarin says the South Americans will look to bypass the physical advantages of the Elephants by making the ball do the work.
The Inter Milan player said Colombia were “ready” and “looking forward” to the match against opponents who are “powerful and very fast”.
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“They’re a very physically strong team who fight for every ball and will rely on their physicality to try to beat us, but with our football, our passing and control of the ball we can have success,” said the 27-year-old. “To beat them we have a plan and we mustn’t have any doubts about that plan. We have to be very intelligent, always keep the game under control, don’t give the ball away and take a breather with the ball, but above all have confidence in what we’re doing.”
A victory for either side would potentially secure their passage into the last 16, depending on the result between Japan and Greece, but although he didn’t say as much, Guarin suggested Colombia would be happy to settle simply for a clean sheet.
“Our concentration was very important against Greece. It was important to secure the zero (goals conceded) because the whole team fulfilled the defensive strategy,” said Guarin. The physical approach Ivory Coast are likely to bring could include the presence of Didier Drogba up front after his game-changing entry off the substitutes’ bench against Japan. Wilfried Bony had a disappointing game on his own up front and after the game Elephants coach Sabri Lamouchi, the former France midfielder, paid tribute to his veteran forward for his impact.
“His appearance changed the game. He brought in two or three players (to mark him) and the team created favourable situations,” said Lamouchi.
He also had praise for midfielder Yaya Toure, who was another far from his best, although he has been struggling with a hamstring injury recently.
“With competitors like these two (Drogba and Toure), it’s much easier,” said Lamouchi. That suggests he may be planning on relying on his battle-hardened veterans for Thursday’s match. The main plus side for the Africans, though, is that after group stage elimination in 2006 and 2010, at least this time they have begun their campaign with a victory. This time around their group is considerably less daunting than at the last two editions.
In 2006 they had been eliminated before their final group game victory over Serbia-Montenegro having already lost both to Argentina and the Netherlands. Four years ago they were still in with a chance of progressing ahead of their final match against North Korea, whom they beat 3-0, but only after a draw with Portugal and defeat to Brazil.
Portugal’s 7-0 thrashing of North Korea had meant the Elephants would need many goals to stand any chance but as it was, the Europeans drew with Brazil and the chance was gone. This time around, though, at the very least they will reach their final group game against Greece with their destiny in their own hands.