Day 4 of action at Equatorial Guinea AFCoN 2015 and after today we will have seen all teams in action once. First up, the competition favourites Cote D’Ivoire taking on Guinea in a match the star-studded Ivorian teams were widely expected to take three points from. Herve Renard, manager of Cote D’Ivoire went with a 4-2-3-1 formation, captain Yaya Toure and Chiek Tiote paired up as defensive midfielders, behind an attacking 3 of Solomon Kalou, Serey Die and Gervinho. Pinpoint of the attack came in the way of new Manchester City man Wilfried Bony. Guinea lined up similarly, out and out attacker Mhammed Yattara leading the line, the youngster looking to add to his 13 international goals. Notably Florentin Pogba, brother of Juventus and France star Paul, was moved from defence into a midfield position for this game.
A fairly uneventful opening period of the game sprung to life just after the quarter-hour make when Gervinho broke free of his marker beating two Guinean defenders with incredible pace. His resulting centre to Bony was returned, Guinea Keeper Naby Yattara brilliantly palming Gervinho’s following shot onto the bar. It seemed to be an ominous sign for Guinea who had looked the stronger of the sides, the pace at which the Ivorians could hurt them on the break. But Guinea stuck bravely to their game plan, pressing high on the Cote D’Ivoire midfield, four-time African footballer of the year Yaya Toure anonymous throughout the first 45 minutes. Guinea were to be rewarded before the half-time whistle though, when PSG defender Sege Aurier failed to deal with a cross into the Ivorian box, heading weakly into the path Yattara who doesn’t miss chances like that volleying into the net giving Sylvain Gbohouo in goal, no chance. It was no less than Guinea deserved and that’s how it remained at half-time in Nuevo Estadio de Malabo.
The Ivorians made a vastly improved start to the second half, coach Herve Renard surely un-impressed by their showing for the first 45. Barely two minutes after the kick-off Bony showed his class, receiving the ball with his back to goal, swivelling to volley from 25 yards out, forcing a fantastic save from Yattara. But ten minutes later, after some increasing pressure from Cote d’Ivoire, they were to be put on the back foot again, this time with an act from lunacy from Gervinho. In the box waiting for a corner, the Roma forward struck out at defender Naby Keita, slapping him in the face leaving referee Mehdi Abid-Charef no option but to brandish the red card. Two great chances followed for Guinea in quick succession, the first from Ibrahima Traore, rattling the crossbar with a curling effort from outside the box after shrugging off two Ivorian defenders. This was followed by a bad miss from Kevin Constant, side-footing wide from a free-kick into the box, a chance he will feel he should have buried.
But there was to be no fairy-tale ending to the match for Guinea, an equalising goal coming on the 71 minute mark, a superb move involving a trademark chipped ball forward from Yaya Toure, controlled beautifully Bony who in turn slid a perfect pass through for substitute Seydou Doumbia to side-foot home, this was Cote d’ivoire at their best. Bony had the chance to put them ahead only seconds later his effort from a cross to the near post flashing wide. Another 1-1 draw was what it was to be for the opening Group D match, a score-line we have now seen four times at the AFCoN 2015. Herve Renard playing down the team’s favourites tag after the match thought Cameroon should be considered the strongest team, the two will face off on the 28th of January which promises to be a huge match, with potentially, everything to play for, in it. It will be Cameroon next up for Guinea, who’s coach Michel Dussuyer bemoaned the team’s lack of experience for not turning the screw to secure victory against 10 men. Even so, on today’s showing Cameroon and other Group D opponents Mali will under-rate them at their own peril.