Kolo and the kids shore up dodgy Ivorian defence

Kolo Toure
Ivory Coast's Kolo Toure (4) heads the ball during their African Cup of Nations quarterfinal soccer match against Algeria in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015 (Photo: AP)
Reuters
Tuesday 3 Feb 2015
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Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard has praised his young defenders ahead of the African Nations Cup semi-final against Democratic Republic of Congo as he seeks to avoid a repeat of DR Congo's upset 4-3 win during qualifying.

The manager also acknowledged that the experienced Kolo Toure was proving to be an influential player.

Ivory Coast beat Algeria 3-1 in the quarter-finals, inspired by big names Wilfried Bony, Gervinho and Yaya Toure, and they showed that their well-documented defensive problems may be behind them.

Ivory Coast have long been plagued by issues at the back and shipped four goals at home against their semi-final opponents during the Nations Cup qualifiers.

Renard recalled Toure to the side, switching to a back three and turning to two inexperienced centre backs in 20-year-old Eric Bertrand Bailly and 21-year-old Wilfried Kanon

"They were excellent," the coach said. "When I made a tactical change (against Algeria), I didn't take either out. Instead I replaced Siaka Tiene, a very experienced player.

"Bailly had an enormous match, and he's just signed for Villarreal after some superb work in December. He is mana from heaven."

Neither young defender played a part in the qualifiers, only making their debuts in a pre-tournament friendly against Nigeria.

"There's also Kanon, another young player. Both of them are benefiting from working alongside Kolo.

"We also have a goalkeeper (Sylvain Gbohouo) without much experience, and Serge Aurier, who's playing in his first Nations Cup. "But thanks to Kolo, we are doing just fine."

Ivory Coast have not kept a clean sheet in the tournament, but their victory over fancied Algeria will give them confidence for the semi-final on Wednesday in Bata.

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