It was interesting to hear Gareth Southgate once again putting the boot in on his old coach Sven Goran Eriksson before, during and after the Ivory Coast’s game against Portugal. The old ”what we needed was Winston Churchill, what we got was Iain Duncan Smith” quote even came out. It was a pity his criticism had nothing to do with what was going on out on the field.
When Sven took over the Ivorians two and a half months ago, everyone was aware they had big European names and could be dark horses at the World Cup despite a tough group. This theory did seem to ignore their efforts at the African Cup of Nations earlier this year however. The Ivorians were disorganised and appeared extremely vulnerable. They were defeated by Algeria in the quarter finals 3-2 a.e.t. and at times it was woeful…
The picture above is from that Algeria game. A regulation cross from deep sees the Ivorian defenders facing four Algerian attackers. It may seem simplistic but contrast that with the way they got players back against Portugal.
The Ivory Coast have nine outfield players on the edge of their own area, denying Cristiano Ronaldo space to work in. After a bit of magic early on, Ronaldo found it tough to find a way through the wall of Ivorians and, above, it is easy to see why.
Sven also had numbers back for setplays – the picture below shows all 11 of the Ivorian team back for a free-kick in the 73rd minute:
In the later stages of the game, with Drogba on the field, the Ivorians finished much the stronger and were able to get men in the box to support him in creating several openings. However, things were far from reckless. In the 88th minute, again all 11 of the Ivorians were back behind the ball, this time in open play:
Here we see the line of four, followed by a line of five with even the forward working hard to close down the ball.
Svens’ team, therefore, has shown their discipline and organisation in the opening game and this was probably the key element against Portugal. Giving Ronaldo space would have been disastrous and defeat would most likely have meant elimination. Similar efforts will be required against Brazil next up and with Drogba likely to start, Eriksson has at least given his charges every chance of success in South Africa.