WM

"Gauchos" secure a narrow win

Group C: Argentina - Ivory Coast 2:1 (2:0)

"Gauchos" secure a narrow win

After three minutes Chelsea's superstar could already have opened the scoring when he headed wide on an assist from Akalé.

From the kick-off, Ivory Coast made a very fresh and confident impression, trying to trap the opponent with their fast counter-attacks. Although the South Americans dominated possession, they didn't find the gap to create chances.

Nevertheless, Ivory Coast keeper Jean-Jacques Tizié seemed beaten after fifteen minutes when he failed to grab the ball. The leather bounced off his hands against the post and appeared to have crossed the line before Tizié finally managed to seize it. Argentina claimed the lead, but Referee De Bleeckere refused to award a goal.

From this point on the "Gauchos" seemed to have lost some of their attacking ambition and Ivory Coast gained control. However, it was José Pekerman's side who took the lead after 24 minutes: Heinze tried to head on Riquelme's curled free kick from the left, the ball fell down on Crespo's foot who easily shot home from close distance.

But the Ivorians didn't seem shocked. On the contrary they continued to impose their own football on the opponent, showing fine combinations and a lot of offensive pace and only lacking precision on the finish. Most of their inspiration came from forward Bonaventure Kalou who had one big chance to score and set up another for Drogba, whose shot was cleared just in time by Ayala after 32 minutes. Few minutes later they almost equalized when Argentina goalkeeper Abbondanzieri saved well against Keita's diving header from close range.

In the 38th minute however, Argentina doubled their lead against the run of play: Riquelme set up Saviola with a magnificient through pass and the FC Sevilla striker shot past the onrushing Tizié into the net. Crespo had been offside but not interfering with play.

After the interval the match went on with the same momentum. Maxi Rodriguez in the 48th and Riquelme in the 55th minute wasted further chances to increase the lead, on the other end Ivory Coast continued to try hard but slightly eased off.

The "Albiceleste" thus got more and more in command. Even when Ivory Coast team manager Henri Michel brought on RC Lens striker Arouna Dindane after 56 minutes they continued to struggled in attack. The manager's measure began to pay off only at about 20 minutes from time when the team put in their last reserves and raised the pressure again. Especially Drogba and Keita worked very hard in attack and caused the Argentina back line some delicate situations. Without the taken-off Crespo the South Americans clearly slacked off, their only concern being to keep their opponents outside their own penalty box.

And Pekerman's side even was successful with this kind of tactics: Although Ivory Coast improved the possession and shots-on-goal statistics, they failed to create convincing opportunities.

Their only reward came after 82 minutes, when Dindane forced his way through on the left and set up the well-positioned Drogba, who finished with a simple left-foot shot.

The last minutes thus became very tense again, but Argentina finally took the three points thanks to their brightness and taking their chances.