Ivory Coast 3-1 Algeria: Elephants charge into last 16 and send sorry holders packing

By Sports Desk January 20, 2022

Ivory Coast marched into the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations and sent holders Algeria crashing out with a 3-1 victory at Japoma Stadium.

Algeria needed a win to stay in the tournament, but the sorry defending champions are heading home after finishing bottom of Group E.

Ivory Coast exploited Les Fennecs' frailties to cruise through as group winners and set up a showdown with Egypt, Franck Kessie setting them on their way by volleying in with his left foot to finish off a slick move midway through the first half when Nicolas Pepe squared the ball into his path.

Ibrahim Sangare capitalised on terrible defending to double their lead with a free header six minutes prior to half-time and Pepe was allowed to run forward unchallenged before picking his spot to add a third goal early in the second half.

Riyad Mahrez rattled the right post with a penalty after Simon Deli was adjudged to have fouled Youcef Belaili before Sofiane Bendebka scored Algeria’s first goal of the tournament with a header 17 minutes from time.

Sebastien Haller had what he thought was the Elephants' fourth goal ruled out for offside right at the end, but they gained sweet revenge for a defeat to Algeria at the quarter-final stage of the 2019 showpiece.

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  • Southgate concedes 'it's hard work' for England after Slovenia draw Southgate concedes 'it's hard work' for England after Slovenia draw

    Gareth Southgate acknowledged it is "hard work" for England so far at Euro 2024, but attempted to focus on the positives despite another underwhelming draw for his side, this time against Slovenia.

    The goalless clash in Cologne on Tuesday was enough for the Three Lions to secure top spot in Group C ahead of Denmark, who also drew 0-0 with Serbia.

    Southgate's side therefore avoided a last-16 tie against Germany, but struggled once more to find an attacking spark.

    The front three of Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden managed just two shots on target between them, while also registering just nine touches in Slovenia's penalty box.

    England came under heavy criticism following their 1-1 draw with Denmark last week and there were boos from sections of their supporters following the full-time whistle in this game.

    But Southgate insisted his side had performed better in their final group outing. 

    "I thought we were much-improved with the ball," he told ITV. "We've created some good openings.

    "At the moment, it's hard work for us. We're not quite getting that break in front of goal.

    "We've had the discipline to keep a clean sheet, which has ended up meaning we top the group. I understand some reactions, but it's a strange environment we're playing in.

    "We wanted to win the game, as you saw from the attacking changes we made. There were lots of things we can build on from the game and a lot of things are starting to come together.

    "We looked more dangerous and we had a good impact from our subs. We've now just got to convert those chances."

    The Three Lions boss praised the likes of Kobbie Mainoo, Cole Palmer and Anthony Gordon for their displays from the bench, and also explained his decision to replace Conor Gallagher - the sole change to the starting line-up from the Denmark game - at half-time.

    "They're really young players, so we're balancing blooding them in a difficult environment, but they used the ball really well for us," he said.

    "We started with Conor, who presses well, and I thought we did that better at the start of the game. We then felt Kobbie's ability to move the ball through the middle of the pitch was going to be helpful, which he did.

    "I don't think we were going to go from where we were to winning 3-0 or 4-0; it's not realistic in the intensity in the game that we had. But there were a lot of things I was really pleased with."

    England now await the identity of their last-16 opponents, which will either be the Netherlands - who finished third in Group D - or the third-placed nation in Group E.

    The Euro 2020 finalists have avoided the half of the draw containing the likes of Germany, Spain, Portugal and France.

    However, Southgate was quick to sweep aside any suggestions his side have been handed a more straightforward path towards a potentially deep run in the competition.

    "We have to take it a step at a time," he added. "This was an improvement, but we've got to improve to win in the next round clearly.

    "We have topped the group, and that was the objective at the start.

    "We've got to play well and whoever we play, it's going to be a really tough game. We shouldn't be seduced by which half of the draw we're in."

  • 'Another step in the right direction' – Stones and Kane see England improvements despite bore draw 'Another step in the right direction' – Stones and Kane see England improvements despite bore draw

    John Stones understands the frustration of England supporters, but firmly believes the Three Lions are on the right track.

    England drew 0-0 with Slovenia in Cologne on Tuesday, though with Denmark drawing against Serbia by the same scoreline, Gareth Southgate's team still topped Group C.

    That means they avoid a last-16 tie with hosts Germany and find themselves in what appears to be the kinder side of the draw, also evading Portugal, France and Spain.

    England had 74% possession and recorded 12 shots, though their expected goals (xG) value of 0.87 shows clear chances were once again at a premium.

    Their possession figure is the highest the Three Lions have had in a single match at a major tournament without scoring (since Opta have tracked such data, from 1966 onwards for the World Cup, and 1980 for the Euros).

    That being said, England's combined 1.13 xG against through their three matches is the lowest of any team in the tournament, as they continue to impress defensively.

    And Stones feels there were clear improvements from the opening two fixtures.

    Speaking to ITV Sport, Stones said: "Well, we wanted to win, but the objective was to top the group and we've done that, so I'm extremely pleased.

    "It's not always going to be easy, especially not when everyone's got a target on our back to beat us.

    "Two clean sheets out of three, a great positive for us to take into the next stage, and there was a lot of improvement from the other two games. We were free-flowing, we found the pockets [of space], created more chances, and I believe it's another step in the right direction.

    "I can understand some of the fans' frustration with us not scoring, or not taking chances, that's football."

    Stones, who is the only outfield player to have started all 22 matches for England at major tournaments under Southgate, added that the squad will be critical of their own displays, however.

    "[We're] very close [to clicking]," he continued.

    "We've got to focus on us and what we can control, and be harsh on ourselves about the game, what we could have done better. I do feel we took a step in the right direction. Not the result we wanted but I'm so pleased we top the group.

    "We've got to beat whoever is put in front of us. No matter who we play, we've got to believe and step up when it counts."

    Captain Harry Kane echoed his team-mate's sentiment.

    Kane said: "That was the aim before the start of the tournament. Come top of the group and control our destiny. I thought we played a lot better than the other games. We couldn't just find that finish but we look forward to the next one.

    "We created some half chances and there were some that we could maybe have done better.

    "These games are tough. We have been here before and stepped it up in the past when we have got to the knockouts. All games in this tournament are tough. It is going to be a difficult challenge ahead and we have enough ability to keep pushing."

    England will face either the Netherlands or any of the four teams from Group E in the next round.

    Slovenia, meanwhile, will go through as one of the best third-placed sides, with Croatia from Group B officially eliminated as a result of Tuesday's matches.

  • England 0-0 Slovenia: Three Lions top group despite underwhelming display England 0-0 Slovenia: Three Lions top group despite underwhelming display

    England finished first in Group C at Euro 2024 but again disappointed during their goalless draw with Slovenia in Cologne on Tuesday.

    The Three Lions endured another flat display in front of goal, with Bukayo Saka's ruled out first-half effort the only real moment of quality from Gareth Southgate's side.

    An injection of pace from substitute Cole Palmer threatened to spark England into life, but a winning goal eluded them as they finished with just five points from their three group games.  

    Despite the draw, England topped Group C following Serbia's goalless draw with Denmark, meaning they avoided a last-16 tie against hosts Germany. Matjaz Kek's side, meanwhile, secured their place in the knockout stages for the first time ever at a major tournament.

    With hopes of a fast start from the Three Lions, it was Slovenia who registered the first effort as Benjamin Sesko saw his header comfortably gathered by Jordan Pickford. 

    England thought they had taken the lead when Saka rounded off a slick attacking move, only to see what would have been his 12th international goal ruled out for offside.

    Kieran Trippier came close to providing the opening goal, but his teasing delivery evaded both Conor Gallagher and Harry Kane inside the Slovenia penalty area. 

    The introduction of Kobbie Mainoo for Gallagher at half-time aimed to add some attacking impetus, with his presence instantly sparking the absent pace from the England midfield. 

    John Stones almost marked his 75th England appearance with a goal as he saw his header cleared off the line, with Marc Guehi unable to keep the loose ball alive. 

    England continued to create a flurry of potential opportunities, with Declan Rice flashing an effort wide of Jan Oblak's goal and substitute Cole Palmer also seeing his effort repelled by Slovenia's number one. 

    The result for Southgate's side confirmed Croatia's elimination from the tournament, with the full-time whistle greeted with frustration by the England support as Slovenia celebrated a remarkable achievement.

    England yet to dazzle, but get the job done

    With the expectations of England's plethora of attacking options possibly being enough to win the tournament on their own, it was yet another underwhelming display. 

    A front three of Kane, Saka and Phil Foden managed just two shots on target between them, with the trio also managing just nine touches in Slovenia's penalty box. 

    With much of the focus surrounding Jude Bellingham, the Los Blancos star was a shadow of the man who scored 23 goals for Real Madrid this season. 

    The 20-year-old completed 86% of his 57 passes, the second-lowest of England's midfield behind Gallagher (85%) and an improvement will be needed regardless of whoever England's last-16 opponents end up being.

    Resilient Slovenia get their rewards

    Despite failing to win a game at Euro 2024, Slovenia proved difficult opponents for each of Group C's sides and have received their just rewards. 

    Slovenia are now undefeated in their last 4 games in the Euros, their longest unbeaten streak in the competition (since at least 1992).

    Kek's side can also take pride from maintaining their unbeaten record arriving into the tournament, and have now not tasted defeat in their last nine matches in all competitions (W4 D5), matching the longest ever unbeaten run in their history (9 games between September 2020 and March 2021).

    It remains to be seen who awaits Slovenia in the next round, but they can take pride with their sensational achievement on the international stage. 

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