Ivory Coast dazzles to rout Tunisia

Updated 26 January 2013
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Ivory Coast dazzles to rout Tunisia

RUSTENBURG, South Africa: A vastly improved Ivory Coast put themselves within touching distance of the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals with a silky 3-0 win over Tunisia yesterday.
Under fire for an error-strewn opening win over Togo, the Elephants oozed class for much of this encounter with Premier League duo Gervinho and Yaya Toure and late substitute Didier Ya Konan getting the goals.
The result lifted the Ivorians to six points, which could be sufficient to earn them an early last-eight ticket should Algeria draw with Togo later in the second Group D tie.
In a surprise, Ivory Coast’s talismanic captain Didier Drogba was dropped to the bench.
The 34-year-old veteran, figuring at his last Nations Cup, proved a largely ineffectual presence against Togo, with coach Sabri Lamouchi taking him off with quarter of an hour to go.
Also out were Manchester City defender Kolo Toure and midfield duo Max Gradel and Ya Konan.
Lamouchi called up Lille striker Salomon Kalou and Anzhi Makhachkala’s young forward Lacina Traore, this pair joining Arsenal’s Gervinho in attack, and Newcastle midfielder Cheik Tiote.
Center-back and former Spurs player Didier Zokora (modestly using the nickname Maestro on his shirt) was handed the skipper’s armband.
Tunisia’s cause was severely hampered by the absence of key striker Issam Jemaa, who misses the rest of the competition with a knee injury sustained against Algeria.
In contrast to their curtain raiser, the Elephants were playing neater, crisper football here, with Gervinho, Traore and Yaya Toure troubling Tunisia’s backline.
Kalou blasted over on 18 minutes, then three minutes later Gervinho combined neatly with the influential Traore to slot a rising right-footed shot into the far corner of Moez Ben Cherifia’s net.
Poor old Tunisia weren’t getting much of a look-in as Ivory Coast unveiled the face of champions-in-waiting for the first time at 2013.
The frenetic early pace ebbed away as the interval loomed, with Ivory Coast having legitimate claims for a penalty for Khalil Chammam’s handball turned down by the Mauritian referee.
On 56 minutes a deft movement involving Traore, Gervinho and Kalou saw the ball in the back of the net, only for Gervinho to be harshly ruled offside.
A big cheer went up when Drogba began to warm up on the touchline, and an even bigger one when he made his stately entrance for the final quarter with Traore making way.
Tunisia, who grabbed a last minute winner against Algeria, finished strongly again with Saber Khalifa squandering a chance to level before goals from Yaya Toure and Ya Konan seconds after entering the fray in the closing two minutes rounded off a perfect night for the top-ranked team on the continent.

Burkina Faso wins
Meanwhile, Alain Traore scored two goals to help 10-man Burkina Faso take control of Group C with a 4-0 victory over Ethiopia in the African Cup of Nations.
Goalkeeper Abdoulaye Soulama was sent off with Burkina Faso leading 1-0 with half an hour remaining for handling the ball outside the area. Ethiopia was unable to capitalize, and Djakaridja Kone and Jonathan Pitroipa rounded off the scoring for Burkina Faso to put it top of its group with four points.


Ahmed defends Pakistan squad as ‘best of the best’

Updated 21 April 2018
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Ahmed defends Pakistan squad as ‘best of the best’

  • Fawad Alam is a seasoned player, but the players we selected are also equally good and have been scoring continuously as well, says Pakistani skipper
  • Former test opener Ramiz Raja claims there are flaws in Alam’s batting technique

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed has defended the 16-man national squad for tours of Ireland and England as the “best of the best” despite criticism over the omission of batsman Fawad Alam.
“It’s not like I voted him (Alam) out,” Ahmed said on the last day of Pakistan’s training camp in Lahore on Saturday, adding that “I would have picked all the 25 ... but we had to pick the best of the best 16 players.”
Wasim Akram was among several former Pakistan test players who have criticized selectors for ignoring Alam in the middle order — especially since Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan have now retired.
Alam was among 25 players called up for the camp after scoring consistently on the domestic circuit, but he failed to make the final squad.
Former test opener Ramiz Raja claimed there were flaws in Alam’s batting technique and that he would not have considered the left-hander, considering the tough conditions in England.
Ahmed played down the dispute.
“People can make as much reasons to talk, but there is nothing like flaws in anyone’s batting technique,” Ahmed said. “If you look back, Fawad had played a test in 2009 and he is a seasoned player ... (but) the players we selected are also equally good and have been scoring continuously as well.”
Ahmed said it had been a “unanimous decision” by coach, captain and selectors.
Pakistan has included uncapped batsmen Usman Salahuddin and Saad Ali in the final 16, as well as Fakhar Zaman, who has done well in limited-overs cricket but is yet to play a test match.
Misbah and Younis will be missed on a tour of England where Misbah scored a century at Lord’s in 2016 and Younis made 218 at The Oval in the fourth test to draw the series 2-2.
Pakistan has two four-day matches against Kent and Northamptonshire before meeting Ireland in a one-off test at Dublin, starting May 11. It plays two tests against England, starting May 24.
Pakistan will also play Scotland on June 12-13 in two Twenty20 Internationals.
Pakistan faced a major blow when its premier legspinner Yasir Shah was ruled out due to injury. However, Ahmed said he wasn’t sure that Shadab Khan, who has played just one test match, would make it to the final team with the English conditions more suitable for pace.
“The weather will be much cooler and I am not even sure if we are going to play a spinner,” Ahmed said.