Côte d’Ivoire

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WATCH: Kodjia’s overhead kick sends Ivory Coast to AFCON; Kei Kamara also scores

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Ivory Coast was one of nine teams to qualify for this January’s Africa Cup of Nations thanks to new Aston Villa man’s Jonathan Kodjia acrobatic goal.

The 26-year-old striker reacted quickly to send an overhead kick home and give the Elephants a 1-0 lead over Sierra Leone, though New England Revolution man Kei Kamara answered to make the night a bit more nervy for the hosts.

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You can watch both goals below, and there’s another day of qualifying on tap for Sunday.

Also qualifying Saturday were Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Algeria, Ghana, Egypt, Morocco, and Guinea-Bissau. Notable eliminations include Nigeria, Guinea, South Africa, Cape Verde, and Sierra Leone.

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Need for incentive? Ivory Coast win bonus doubled by president

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With national and professional pride on the line in the world’s biggest tournament, the Ivory Coast government is promising its team extra money if it wins its next game.

Seems a bit unnecessary, no?

But that’s the case for Les Elephants, who would advance with a win against Greece in its final Group C game on Tuesday, as Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara has approved a doubled win bonus for the players.

From beIN Sports:

On a visit to the squad’s training base in Brazil, Guillaume Soro, head of the Ivorian parliament, informed the players that Mr Ouattara is keen to reward them should they beat the Greeks.

“The president has requested me to tell you that the Ivorian people are proud of you, that he is proud of you,” he said.

“Despite the defeat, you have been brave against Colombia. He has also requested me to announce that the win bonuses against Greece have been doubled.

“I have been watching your game against Colombia in Brasilia. You have lost, but everyone who watched it agreed to say that you are capable of achieving a good result in your next match to qualify for the round of 16. I am convinced about it.”

Jokes aside, there’s something to be said for hearing from your president — second-hand, where’s the phone call? — that everyone believes in you and there’s more money on the line. Still, doubt that when Cheick Tiote goes to break an opponent in half with a tackle, his thought will be, “MORE MONEY!!”

Shanghai Shenhua threatens to contest Didier Drogba transfer, appeal to FIFA

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Apparently there are two interpretations of whether Shanghai Shenhua fulfilled their commitment to seemingly Galatasaray-bound Didier Drogba. The first — the one the player and destination club are working under — is that months of unpaid compensation frees the former Chelsea star from his contract with the Chinese Super League club. The working assumption is that Shenhua were something like three months behind on their payments to Drogba, delinquency that leaves the Ivorian free to pursue a new career path.

The second has Shenhua moving toward an appeal to FIFA.

According to reports, the club Drogba joined last summer is “deeply shocked” that the 34-year-old is trying to move to Turkey, though it might be better to say they’re shocked he’s trying to move without compensation. Read between the lines of comments from Shanghai and you can see a future, modest settlement between Gala and Shenhua.

Cue the we have nothing to lose, so let’s give this a try legalese:

“We understand that Drogba is eager to participate in the European Champions League,” they added in a statement.

“Shanghai Shenhua Football Club and Drogba on 1 July, 2012 officially signed a formal contract for a period of two and a half years.

“The club has acted in accordance with this contract, and has effectively fulfilled the responsibilities and obligations of the club.

“Shanghai Shenhua is prepared to collate all the evidence and information and submit it to Fifa in order to protect its interests.”

They’ll collate the evidence, say ‘OK, you know we really mean this, right’ then take one million Euro to drop it. At least, that’s what this looks like at first blush, but from our seats on the outside, it’s impossible to know. Maybe Shenhua has a bunch of old school pay stubs they’ll throw down on a desk in Zurich and demand Drogba’s new deal be ripped up.

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For now, Drogba and Galatasaray seem pretty sure they’ve got a deal. With Drogba set for at least another week in South Africa, we don’t need an answer tomorrow. But thanks to Shenhua’s reaction, we will eventually need an answer.

Cup of Nations: Togo win eliminates Algeria

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It was a game largely dominated by the better side. At least, it was dominated by the team we thought the better side coming into today’s game. Algeria held huge advantages in all the relevant statistical categories — advantages that reflected how the game was played — but their fate was determined by two events. Emmanuel Adebayor got in front of Essaïd Belkalem for the first goal. Dové Wome converted the Sparrow Hawks’ second chance at goal in the 93rd. Two shots, two goals, and a 2-0 win for Togo.

The win was only the nation’s third in Cup of Nations history. Having never advanced our of group stage, Togo is now one point away from a spot in the quarterfinals.

For Algeria, having already lost to the only two teams they can catch in Group D, the result condemns the Desert Foxes to last place ahead of a highest-anticipated but now meaningless match with Cote d’Ivoire.

After giving up the opener in the 31st minute, you sensed Algeria were in real trouble, with Togo almost immediately adopted a more conservative posture. Whereas the first half hour saw the Sparrow Hawks probe the Algerian defense in hopes of creating chances for Emmanuel Adebayor, the last hour rarely showed the Togoans building the kind of play that would enable hopeful connections to their captain. Against an Algerian side that rarely tested Tunisia, Togo were content to sit back and let the Foxes proved themselves dangerous.

That never happened. Long rare shots and the random headed chance gave goalkeeper Kossi Agassa two good scares, but there was never the sustained quality in the final third that convinced anybody the Algerians would finally breakthrough. When Wome scored the insurance goal, there was little doubt the match was over, even if a broken goal post near the end of the second half meant there’d be a remarkable 13 minutes extra time.

But it was never meant to be. Togo’s two shots on goal amid an otherwise average performance were enough. Against Algeria, they were overkill.

Now Togo enters Wednesday’s match with Tunisia needing only a point to qualify for their first knockout round spot. Given what we’ve seen from the sides through two rounds, it’d be no surprised if they got it. Tunisia has only scored once this tournament, while Togo gave Cote d’Ivoire a scare on the group’s opening day. On form, Togo might be the better side.

Algeria, on the other hand, have nothing to play for in Valid Halilhodzic’s match against his former team. Same for the Ivorians, who would stay in first place with a loss.

While the Desert Foxes could have looked to Wednesday’s match as a showcase rematch of their dramatic 2010 quarterfinal win, now the drama’s gone. Wednesday’s game is meaningless.

Didier Drogba starts on the bench for Cote d’Ivoire

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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.