WISSAM DEHBI & LUKA PETRINEC / AIPS in ABU DHABI: Cote d’Ivoire’s first victory in the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 was enough to offer a good chance of progress to the second round.
A convincing 3-0 defeat of New Zealand in their final Group B match followed the securing of only one point against Italy and Uruguay in the first two matches of Group B.
From the first minute the Ivorians applied pace and pressure on New Zealand who were never able to reach the Africans’ penalty box themselves in the opening exchanges.
Despite their pressure, however, Cote d’Ivore failed to create opportunities. Instead, it was the team from Oceania who had the first serious chance to score when attacker Stuart Holhusen let fly without success from 11m.
Eight minutes later, the first chance for the Ivory Coast was created by the best player in the first half, left winger Kouame N Guessan, but his effort was saved by New Zealand goalkeeper Zac Speedy.
In the 25th minutes Ivory Coast made their superiority count and took the lead. Left winger N’Guessan again tormented the New Zealand defenders and provided the assist for Moussa Bakayoko to score.
Matters grew worse for the Kiwis after defender Nick Forrester received his second yellow card and was sent off.
The Ivorians could not capitalise on numerical superiority before half-time however, three minutes after the interval, they made the victory relatively secure through Bakayoko after good team work.
New Zealand, knowing they were facing elimination, began to lose concentration as the Elephants sought more goals to enhance their goal difference.
If Moussa Bakayoko was the man of the first half, Speedy was the man of the second with some outstanding saves as he held the fort for New Zealand.
He was helpless, though, when Meite Yakou scored the third Ivorian goal whith a header after a well-worked corner.
New Zealand had thus failed to find the net for six consecutive matches, a record for the longest goal drought in U-17 world cup history.
Coach Darren Bazeley assessed going home without a point or a goal was “a disappointment.”
He said: “We tried but we had problems in our game, particular at the beginning . We knew it would be very difficult for us in this World Cup, especially in this difficult group.
“I think we showed against Italy that we can play with stronger teams, but today we did not start the match well, we left the pitch and the ball to the Ivory Coast. We were shocked by the defeat from Uruguay, and our best game was against Italy.
“The tournament was a great experience for us, because it shows the quality og football worldwide. If our players want to succeed in football they must be faster, stronger and to have a better passing game .”
Bazeley thought Ivorians the best team in the group.
Cote d’Ivoire coach Ibrahima Kamara said: “tried to made the players understand that the [qualifying] details are very important because they weren’t aware of this important point before the competition, But I’m sure now and regardless of the result they have understood the lesson and they will be better in the future.
“My target is to create a good team and to make these young players learn a lot from this big event, in order to develop them and make them reach the first team”
“I repeat again, I’m not focused on the direct results, I want to create a new generation of players for the first team”
The result left Cote d’Ivoire in third place in the group with four points and a goal difference of plus-two so they must wait for other results to know whether they play on . . . or fly home.