The Ivory Coast goalkeeping problem

In Drogba, Gervinho and Doumbia, Ivory Coast have some of the most potent attackers in their respective European leagues (England, France, Swizerland). But all that’s no good, if things can’t be kept tight in the back. As a friend put it to me today: “Give me the name of one person in the Ivorian defense who’s capable of stopping Christian Ronaldo?” Ivory Coast’s first game in the ‘Group of Death’ is against Portugal. I’m sure it’s a question we will return to, but first I’m prompted by an article in today’s ‘L’Expression’ to look at the goalkeeping position.

During the African Nations’ Cup in Ghana in 2008, Ivory Coast looked to have a real problem here. In the World Cup in Germany, the team let in 8 goals in 3 games.

Prospects seemed to improve recently with the current no.1, Copa Barry picking up the award last season for being the best goalkeeper in the Belgian league (he plays for Sporting Lokeren).┬áBut this season, the problem has risen again. Copa is no longer the first choice keeper at Lokeren; his only practice now is with the reserve side. That showed itself at the Nations’ Cup in Angola, when soft goals against Algeria proved decisive. Copa had barely played all season. In fact, Copa himself was a midfielder until the age of 17 when he played in goal for the first time in his life (at the Asec academy in Abidjan).

The second choice is Vincent Angban; currently the only Ivory Coast-based player in the squad (everyone else plays in Europe). He played in the last World Cup qualifying match against Guinea and looked very shaky. Ten days ago his mistake against Zanaco when he failed to catch a simple ball and put it in his own night, sent his club side, Asec, crashing out of the Champions’ league in the first round. His rival for the goalkeeping spot at Asec, Daniel Yeboah, doesn’t look like a bad prospect, though he paid dearly for a simple error against South Africa a few years back when in the national team. He did get the award though for being best Ivorian goalkeeper in the national league last season.

So, the situation is a little worrying, especially when you consider that Copa is now 30. In the 2008 African Nations’ Cup semi-final in Ghana against Egypt, Copa went off early with an injury and the replacement, Stephane Lobouet, let in three.

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