For the first time in his international career, Cote d’Ivoire striker Didier Drogba was dropped from the lineup, the former Chelsea and Marseille icon left out of Sabri Lamouchi’s starting XI for today’s match against Tunisia. Anzhi Makhachkala beanpole Lacina Traoré was given the start and produced a nice backheel assist on Gervinho’s opening goal.
The move comes after an opening match that saw Les Elephants struggle to put away Togo, a team expected to finish at the bottom of Group D. Gervinho’s 88th minute goal salvaged a 2-1 result, but from a team that’s against favored to win the tournament, more was expected. Potentially as a result, Drogba and fellow stalwart Kolo Touré found themselves on the bench.
Drogba and Touré’s are two very different cases, though. Touré struggled against Togo and was understandably dropped, with midfielder Didier Zokora assuming the central defense role he has periodically occupied for the national team. Touré very well may have slipped enough to justified this move on form alone.
For Drogba, his first match struggles were less a result of his play than the tactics of his opponent. Not surprisingly, Togo paid an undo amount of attention to the Ivorian starter. As a result, his impact on the first game was marginalized.
A more viable explanation for Drogba’s benching is fitness. The 34-year-old has had only three days rest since the match against Togo. With three points booked, Lamouchi can afford to give his best attacker some rest. If the move backfires, Cote d’Ivoire can still go through with a win against Algeria, a match for which Drogba will be rested.
Now in the 67th minute, Cote d’Ivoire has a 1-0 lead, and Didier Drogba is getting ready to come on. With only 20 minutes of action today, he should be well rested for Wednesday’s match.
A roundup of Saturday’s preseason friendlies involving Premier League clubs…
Celtic 1-1 Leicester City
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Leicester City winger (and 2015-16 PFA Player of the Year) Riyad Mahrez opened the scoring with a sensational, curling goal guided inside the far post by his magical left foot (WATCH HERE). The Foxes conceded an equalizer just before the hour mark (Eoghan O’Connell), but Claudio Ranieri‘s side still has a number of key players to welcome back into the starting lineup ahead of the opening day for the 2016-17 Premier League season, which is just three weeks from today.
PEC Zwolle 0-4 Southampton
Southampton continued their preseason preparations, under the direction of new manager Claude Puel, with a 4-0 victory over Eredivisie side Zwolle. Nathan Redmond, who arrived from Norwich City in the summer, scored twice on the day (second goal below), while Charlie Austin and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg bagged a goal each.
Portsmouth 3-3 Bournemouth
Bournemouth managed a 3-3 draw with fellow South Coast side Portsmouth, with Lewis Grabban, Jordan Ibe (fresh off signing from Liverpool) and Dan Gosling scoring for the Premier League side.
Barnsley 0-3 Everton
Ross Barkley scored twice and Kevin Mirallas netted the other goal, as Everton, under new boss Ronald Koeman, brushed aside Championship side Barnsley
Elsewhere in preseason action
Bradford City 1-4 Burnley
Rotheram 1-2 Sunderland
Preston North End 1-1 Stoke City
Scunthorpe United 0-2 Hull City
Watford 0-0 Anzhi Makhachkala
PSV Eindhoven vs. West Bromwich Albion — canceled
Don’t stab at the ball!
It’s a cry that echoes from youth matches to the upper reaches of the game, but Riyad Mahrez has a tendency to force defenders into forgetting fundamentals.
[ MORE: Sunderland hires Moyes ]
The Leicester man, linked to Arsenal, danced through the Celtic defense in Saturday’s International Champions Cup action to whip a shot home and give the Foxes a 1-0 lead in Glasgow (The Bhoys have since tied it up).
We’ve seen this so many times from the Algerian, who hopefully sticks around Leicester for the club’s UEFA Champions League run and Premier League title defense.
DeAndre Yedlin left the United States for England in January 2015, the latest step in a career trajectory simply described as “Up”.
Yedlin, now 23, acclimated to life in the Premier League before making a late season appearance with Tottenham to close the 2014-15 season.
[ MORE: Sunderland hires Moyes ]
The next year saw him force into Sam Allardyce‘s Sunderland lineup, transforming his defensive acumen in a way that few USMTN fans could deny during this summer’s Copa America Centenario (That pesky red card aside).
But not only is Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League, but Yedlin’s manager at Sunderland is gone. What does this mean for Yedlin? Let’s consider three primary options:
Sunderland still buys him — New manager David Moyes loves him a mobile fullback with offensive capabilities. Not that Yedlin is Leighton Baines, but a starting right back slot in the Premier League could still be in the cards.
Tottenham keeps him around — Mauricio Pochettino likes to rotate his defenders and will have a heavy schedule on his plate. Kieran Trippier was unable to unseat Kyle Walker last season, so the No. 2 chair could be open for Yedlin (although Trippier showed he’s on the level while at Burnley, leading the league in crosses during 2014-15).
Tottenham loans him out — Speedy right backs will be in demand at several spots, and Sunderland is just one destination where fans are clamoring for reinforcements. Lack of purchases is one big reason Steve Bruce just left Hull City, and clubs like that will be aiming for relatively proven players on loan.
Fabian Delph means no offense to Martin O’Neill, Paul Lambert, and Manuel Pellegrini, but he’s never seen anything like the management of Man City boss Pep Guardiola.
“The first three weeks have been amazing. I’ve learned more than I have throughout my whole career,” he said to the BBC. “It is a big statement but it is the truth.”
[ MORE: Wenger open to big spending ]
He’s not alone in his praise for Guardiola, as defender Gael Clichy is thrilled at what’s transpiring in front of him at training.
“That’s something new as before we were quite open and if you look at our games from last year we were conceding a lot of goals on the counter-attack because we were an offensive team and open. I guess he’s trying to make us as offensive as previous years but just as solid at the back.”
Later in the article, Clichy talked about his friendship with Delph (which really ties our post together). City’s site even used the term “bromance”. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.