Yaya Toure (right) will be looking to lift his country into the knockout stage for the first time in their history.

PREVIEW: Ivory Coast and Greece battle for second place

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Always so talented on paper, Ivory Coast have stumbled in the last two World Cups and have yet to make good on the promise of their golden generation of players.  This summer represents their best chance of finally making it to the knockout stages.  Currently sitting in second place in the group, they take on bottom-dwellers Greece in a must-win match for both sides.

 

Gervinho (left) has been fantastic for the Ivory Coast this summer - Greece beware

Gervinho (left) has been fantastic for the Ivory Coast this summer – Greece beware

Despite losing to Colombia, Les Elephants played well throughout, and have looked the part of a team destined for the knockout stage this summer.  In their opponent Greece, the ever-so defensive minded team from the Aegean, they face the least threatening side of the group, one that has yet to score a goal in this tournament.  This is there time, this is the final hurdle, and you just have to think that the likes of Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba and Didier Zokora will channel every ounce of passion and experience to reach their tournament promise land.  Here is our preview and prediction.

Projected starting XI’s

Ivory Coast: Barry; Boka, Bamba, Zokora, Aurier; Tiote, Y.Toure, Serey; Gervinho, Bony, Kalou

Greece: Karnezis; Cholevas, Maniatis, Sokratis, Manolas, Torosidis; Samaras, Katsouranis, Kone, Salpingidis; Gekas

Serge Aurier (right) has put his name in the discussion for best right-back in the world with his performances this summer.

Serge Aurier (right) has put his name in the discussion for best right-back in the world with his performances this summer.

Key’s for Ivory Coast:

– Winning the midfield battle.  Toure, Tiote and Serey have the ability, strength and work rate to give Greece a horrific time of it in the middle of the park, and seeing as how Greece love to try to initiate their counters from midfield, if Ivory Coast win the battle there, they’ll surely win the match.

– Make the most of set-piece opportunities.  For all their focus on defense and height at the back, Greece is quite poor at defending from dead ball situations.  Given the aerial prowess of Bony, Toure and others, they could easily nip and goal or two from set pieces alone.

– Making sure that the space behind Aurier and Boka is minimized as much as possible.  Greece are a defensive team but they do have some quality and experience on the flanks in their side, with enough about them to exploit the space on the counter if it is not managed well.

Key’s for Greece:

– They wont get too many chances to make headway in the final third, so when they do, it is vital that they take their chances well.  Ivory Coast do have a weakness or two at the back and sometimes they can be carved open a little easier than expected, so this is a match where they should look to be a little more forward thinking.

– DEFEND…SET…PIECES…MORE…EFFICIENTLY – it’s that simple.

– Keep their aggression channeled.  They are a very physical team and have a habit of taking untimely cards.  As long as they do not get into too much foul/card trouble, they stand a better chance of being able to continue to be aggressive, and with 11-men in the process.

Key Battles:

– Torosidis v Gervinho – He may have not played well in an Arsenal shirt, but Gervinho is re-born since moving to Roma and it shows this summer for his country.  He has been sensational on either flank, so Torosidis must keep track of him.  If Gervinho gets near the end line, he’ll make things happen.

– Sokratis v Bony – Bony’s presence both in the air and on the ground give the Ivory Coast a fantastic attacking pivot which to revolve around.  Given his prowess in the air, Sokratis must nullify his effectiveness there first and foremost.  He’ll have help from other defenders when he has the ball at his feet, but making sure Bony doesn’t get on the end of a cross is vital.

– Serey v Kone – Kone is the type of midfield player that likes to roam, run with the ball and create chances further up the pitch, and with Toure likely to rampage forward and Tiote playing in a box-to-box role, Serey must mark Kone out of the match.  He has the ability to unlock a stretched Ivorian defense if he is not kept under lock and key.

Wilfried Bony (in green) has replaced Didier Droga as first choice striker, but will he punish Greece?

Wilfried Bony (in green) has replaced Didier Droga as first choice striker, but will he punish Greece?

Match prediction

Greece have yet to score a goal in this tournament, and with the amount of power, pace and quality that is featured throughout the Ivory Coast XI, I cannot see them starting now.  The only thing Greece has going for them, is the fact that the Ivorians need too many chances before they tuck one away, and if they do not have their finishing boots on today, Greece could well nip a goal and hope for a fantastic defensive performance at the other end.  Still and yet, I think the African side has what it takes to finally reach the knockout stage; 2-0 Ivory Coast.

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Tags: 2014 World Cup Greece Ivory Coast Preview And Predictions Soccer

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