Elephants Won’t Forget AFCON Final Against Ghana
Two of the continent’s powerhouses face off when Ivory Coast take on Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations final on Sunday in a repeat of the 1992 final.
After a slow start to the tournament in which they required victory in their final group game to assure themselves of qualification for the knockout phase Ivory Coast have shown why they were favourites before a ball was kicked in their last two games. Successive 3-1 wins over Algeria and DR Congo have put the Elephants into a third ACON final in nine years and they now have the opportunity to add to their sole Cup of Nations triumph which came against Ghana 23 years ago.
Max Gradel, Wilfried Bony and Gervinho have each scored two goals apiece for the Ivory Coast with the latter outstanding since returning from a suspension he picked up following a red card in the opening game of the tournament to net in both of his appearances in the knockout phase.
Ghana claimed a fourth victory in a row, and a third clean sheet in their last four games as they coasted past hosts Equatorial Guinea with a 3-0 win in a semi-final marred by crowd trouble which saw Ghanian players and fans pelted by missiles from the home crowd. Disturbances began as the players left the field at half-time and continued throughout the second half, with the game stopped for half an hour before the final minutes were played out in a hugely tense atmosphere.
Former Chelsea boss Avram Grant has now seen his side win five of their last six games with their solitary defeat coming against Senegal in their opening game of the tournament.
Marseille forward Andre Ayew has scored three times in Ghana’s five games, including the final goal in their semi-final win.
French coach Herve Renard has no new injury concerns to deal with for the Elephants and looks set to name the same side which has earned victories in their last three with lynchpin Yaya Toure set to lead the side and his Manchester City team-mate Wilfried Bony leading the line.
Asamoah Gyan is expected to be fit enough to feature for the Ghana from the start after sitting out their semi-final victory, although Jordan Ayew’s fine performance in his absence may see him preferred in the starting XI. Grant is expected to name the same side otherwise.
Head to Head
There’s nothing to choose between the teams over the last 20 years, with three wins for each and two draws in the eight clashes between them over that period of time. They’ve both also won once in their African Cup of Nations meetings over the last ten years with Ivory Coast gaining revenge for a 4-2 loss in 2008 by earning a 3-1 victory in 2010, when Gervinho scored the opener.
With 12 goals between them in their last two matches, it looks as though both sides are clicking into gear at just the right time and the bulk of the best players in the pitch taking up attacking positions goals should be on the cards again here.
Both teams to score looks a near formality then while the Ivorians can finally deliver on the promise they’ve shown for years, so take the Elephants to prevail with each side getting on the scoresheet at 19/4 or in a game with over 2.5 goals at 18/5. The in-form Gervinho’s the pick of the bunch in the goalscoring markets at 13/2 to open the scoring and 12/5 to score anytime.