A lot had been said about both of these teams before kick off. Argentina are among the stronger sides in the competition and expected to fare particularly well, and the Ivory Coast are considered by many to be a good outside bet to perform well and cause upsets. Bar some poor finishing and a failure to produce the final, all-important ball, this could have been their first upset.
Argentina may have enjoyed an impressive majority of the possession but it was the Ivory Coast who took the honors in terms of shots on target and shots off target. In fact they managed to rack up twice as many shots as the Argentines. It was inevitable to many that the Argentines first goal came from the brilliant Hernan Crespo. He mopped up Roberto Ayala’s header that came back off the post and the South American party started. But not after some shocks from the Ivory Coast players.
It could easily and justifiably be argued that it was the debutantes who played the better of the two teams in the first half despite going into the break 2-0 down. While they showed tremendous skill and determination in attacking the middle of the park, in the final third they were left regrettably wanting and it was this that would prove to be their ultimate downfall.
The second Argentinean goal came in the 38th minute when the much lauded Juan Riquelme played a sublime through ball directly into the path of oncoming Javier Saviola who deftly flicked the ball into the back of the net. The second half was a much more subdued affair as Argentina sat back to defend their comfortable 2-0 lead. The Ivory Coast continued to make life difficult, though, setting up several chances before Didier Drogba finally managed to grab a consolation goal in the 82nd minute.
The final score was 2-1 and the Ivory Coast should take great heart from the fact that, in their first ever World Cup game, they gave Argentina a real scare. With a more accurate final ball and more deadly finishing they could easily have been walking away with three points from one of the tournament’s favorites.
The Ivory Coast lived up to the expectations of their legions of admirers that had been predicting something special from the West Africans. Having watched this performance, it is safe to say that with an easier group that didn’t contain the likes of Argentina and Holland they would have had a very good chance of making the knockout stages. While anything is possible, it looks likely that the two big guns of the group will prove just a little too much to handle.