The ref rarely blew his whistle in the first half…
Save for the rare corner kicks that momentarily halted the fiery pace at which the game was being played.
This game between Ivory Coast and Mali was the first game for both sides in their 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign. In Africa, a football game between two West African countries is always one to look forward to.
And the anticipation for this one was high the moment both teams were drawn in the same group. The powerful Ivorians versus the unpredictable Malians. And when both teams clashed over the weekend, the game lived up to the hype that had gone before it!
Typical of West African football, both sides launched attacks at each other’s goalmouths incessantly. It was a really open game with quite a handful of goalscoring chances. The tall Malians were always too busy trying to bully their way past the strong, bullish Ivorians.
By the end of the first half, four goals had already been scored. The Malians opened the scoring in the 18th minute of the game, heaping more pressure on the home side. They had been the better side for the first few minutes of the game. Deservedly, they were in front.
Conceding a goal at home is hard. Conceding the first goal of a home game is even harder. And you would have expected the Ivorians to lay down and wallow in their new-found misery of going a goal down, so early in the game and in front of the very vocal home fans. But this Ivory Coast side wasn’t interested in accepting defeat.
In quick response, they scored three goals in less than 10 minutes (26′, 31′, 34′). The Malians were rattled! It was the response of a team that ended up being the stronger, faster and better team on the night.
Of course, the Malians never recovered. Ivory Coast won the game. But the win was, in part, a testament to the deep strength the Ivorians possessed. As expected of a game of football between two African nations, it was more a display of “Who’s Stronger” than “Who’s Tactically Better.”
Flying tackles here. Body checking there. High boots in the air. Fierce shots on the grass. According to the match day commentator, this one was “a classic.” For the Ivorians, it seemed like there was some sort of trophy at stake. They were always raring to go… both defensively and while attacking.
Take nothing away from Mali. They tried all they could. They tried to get another goal, reawaken the fire with which they started the game. But the Ivorians were too strong.
In a group of four teams where only one gets the ticket to travel to the Russia 2018 World Cup, this game was the best prophet to foretell the things to come in the upcoming games.
To the death!!! (or World Cup ticket?)
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav