Monday, November 29, 1999

Ivory Coast say ready to dance with Samba boys

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A goalless draw against Portugal has given Ivory Coast the confidence it needs to tackle top ranked Brazil on Sunday, especially with talismanic captain and striker Didier Drogba likely to be in the starting lineup.The African giants dominated their Group G opener against an unimpressive Portugal, with plenty of possession, unfaltering energy and a tight defence which even their opponent's captain Cristiano Ronaldo failed to breach.Drogba, who fractured his forearm just before the tournament and came on as a 66th minute substitute during the opening game, was impressed by his team's defence against Portugal but said they needed to score when facing the Samba boys."It will be a difficult game and what we need to change is score goals. We need to defend the same and maybe try to improve the one-on-ones, and have more opportunities," the 32-year-old told reporters.Drogba is seen as essential to Ivory Coast's hopes of progressing to the second round for the first time after losing in their group stage games to Argentina and the Netherlands in their only World Cup appearance four years ago.The Ivorian striker, who helped Chelsea to a league and FA Cup double and finished as the Premier league's leading scorer last season, said he was well enough to start against Brazil on Sunday."Having Drogba on the pitch is very important for us ... he will be even more ready for the next game," said coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.While he praised his team's defence and discipline during the Portugal game, he said both teams were determined not to lose in their opening match and are likely to attack more during the Sunday clash in the "Group of Death".The Elephants are expected to make life difficult for five-times champions Brazil who began their World Cup campaign with a surprisingly hard-fought victory against North Korea, the tournament's lowest ranked team."With Brazil, we need to defend very well, and try to break their counter attack," said Ivorian defender Kolo Toure.Ivory Coast face Brazil at the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg on Sunday before playing North Korea in Nelspruit on June 25.(Editing by Nigel Hunt)
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