Soccer-Algeria defeat exposes Ivory's lack of mental strength

By Julien Pretot

CABINDA, Angola, Jan 25 - The 3-2 extra-time
defeat to Algeria in the quarter-finals of the African Nations
Cup exposed Ivory Coast's lack of much-needed mental strength
required for this year's World Cup.

Pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast were 2-1 up on Sunday
with one minute left after substitute Abdulkader Keita had found
the back of the net with a superb 25-metre striker but the
Elephants let the result slip from their hands.

Madjid Bougherra equalised one minute into stoppage time
before substitute Hameur Bouazza earned World Cup-bound Algeria
a place in the last four when he headed home in the opening
minute of extra time.

"When we were 2-1 up with one minute remaining, we should
have locked everything down and just sat back to keep that
result," coach Vahid Halilhodzic told reporters.

"This is unacceptable. A great team would have regrouped in
the bow and, no matter what, would have won the match."

Halilhodzic, who was undefeated in his last 23 games with
Ivory Coast, added his players failed to sustain the pressure of
being favourites.

"I had told them during training on Thursday, 'be careful,
do not take Algeria lightly, they have nothing to lose'," he

"I feel like the pressure of being the overwhelming
favourites was simply too much for some players."

Ivory Coast will not have that problem when the World Cup
finals kick off in South Africa in June as they were drawn with
Portugal, Brazil and North Korea.

But Halilhodzic was also concerned his team were struggling
during key moments.

"Every time, Ivory Coast slip at the wrong time," he said,
referring to the 2008 African Nations Cup semi-finals, when
Ivory Coast were thrashed 4-1 by eventual champions Egypt.

"This team comes to a sticking point when they need to show
their talent."

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba was far from his best
throughout the match against Algeria, missing a couple of
clear-cut chances that would have sent his side through.

The defence, led by Manchester City centre back Kolo Toure,
proved shaky on Algeria's long crosses and on set pieces.

"On every corner kick, they would win the ball," said

"We knew they would send long crosses and yet, numbers 13
(Karim Matmour) and nine (Abdelkader Ghezzal) won a lot of balls
and caused huge problems to our defence."

(Editing by Alison Wildey

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