Elephants trample Guinea into dust

Côte d’Ivoire overwhelmed Guinea in the closing stages to triumph 5-0 in an Africa Cup of Nations Cup quarterfinal on Sunday and equal the record winning margin for the tournament.

The ”Elephants” led 1-0 at half-time thanks to a Kader Keita goal and captain Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou (twice) and Bakary Kone were on target as Guinea fell apart.

Côte d’Ivoire thrashed Ethiopia 6-1 in the group phase of the 1970 tournament in Sudan and although strongly fancied to defeat Guinea, they could hardly have imagined winning so comfortably.

Next up for Côte d’Ivoire are either defending champions Egypt or dark horses Angola in the semifinals on Thursday with the odds favouring a second consecutive appeearance in the final for Drogba and his stars.

”It was a complicated match up to the second goal,” said Côte d’Ivoire coach Gerard Gili.

”I always underline the discipline and the willingness of my players. Guinea didn’t play badly and Robert Nouzaret [Guinea’s coach] has done a good job.

”We have a team that doesn’t doubt itself. We were here to put up a big performance and we never doubted we’d get it.”

Nouzaret said he’d picked a team that could trouble the Ivorians.

”Unfortunately once again the defence gave away a gift. We tried to get back into it in after the break but after the second goal we didn’t have any morale left.”

Ivorian fears that they would be without defensive kingpin Kolo Toure from English Premiership leaders Arsenal materialised as he failed to recover from a groin injury sustained in a group match against Benin.

Another Premiership player, Didier Zokora from Tottenham Hotspur, dropped back from midfield to partner Abdoulaye Meite of Bolton in the heart of defence.

Guinea were even worse off with suspended captain and playmaker Pascal Feindouno joined on the sidelines by central defender Dianbobo Balde, who failed a fitness test on a hamstring strain.

The first clash in the tournament between the countries drew a big crowd to the Essipong Stadium in the south-west town and there was one minute of silence in honour of the late son of former Ivorian coach Uli Stielike before the match began.

Stielike had to quit as coach just two weeks before the tournament kicked off after his son lapsed into a coma and he was replaced by Frenchman Gerard Gili.

Given no chance of success, Guinea held out for 25 minutes before a careless clearance from veteran goalkeeper Kemoko Camara gifted a goal to Kader Keita from French champions Lyon.

Fullback Ibrahim Camara was caught out by the clearance and Keita darted in to beat the goalkeeper at his near post and give the Elephants the lead with his second goal of the tournament.

Inspirational leader Drogba was injured twice in quick succession, but recovered to see fellow striker Aruna Dindane blaze wide with the Guinea defence in disarray.

A scrappy first half ended in a surge of excitement as Salomon Kalou, Dindane, Keita and Drogba went close at one end while largely idle Ivorian goalkeeper Boubacar Barry got down smartly to hold an Ismael Bangoura shot.

Guinea coach Robert Nouzaret, a Frenchman who has twice coached Côte d’Ivoire, made the first change of the match 15 minutes into the second half, sending on Karamoko Cisse in place of veteran striker Souleymane Youla.

The Ivorians had a scare soon after as a free kick was pushed to Daouda Jabi, whose shot finished just off target with Barry hurting himself while trying to gather the ball.

Barry gave his team-mates a verbal blast midway through the second half, angry that they were allowing Guinea too much space to come forward in search of an equaliser.

Almost immediately Dindane should have responded to the ear bashing by scoring a second goal for the Ivorians, but he hit the side netting after rounding goalkeeper Camara.

However, with 70 minutes gone the Elephants did score again as 2006 African Footballer of the Year Drogba latched on to a Arthur Boka pass and stroked the ball wide of Camara into the far corner of the net.

Drogba turned creator soon after, setting up Kalou for the simplest of goals as the Chelsea striker rounded the Guinean goalkeeper and tapped the ball over the line with no defender close.

Demoralised Guinea were leaving huge gaps in defence and Kalou and substitute Kone found the net in the closing stages. – Sapa-AFP

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