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El Tri and Chepo face Ivory Coast giants

By Kim Tate



Mexico National soccer team manager Jose Manuel Chepo de la Torre talks to reporters after practice August 13, 2013 at the Red Bulls training facitlty in Hanover, New Jersey
Mexico National soccer team manager Jose Manuel Chepo de la Torre talks to reporters after practice August 13, 2013 at the Red Bulls training facitlty in Hanover, New Jersey

Mexico and Ivory Coast will face off for the first time in history tonight, in a friendly match ahead of both teams' final quest to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

In a final tune up match for El Tri before it faces Honduras at Estadio Azteca on Sept. 6 in World Cup qualifying, Mexico coach José Manuel de la Torre is looking to anchor his squad with veterans while giving new talent a chance to get their feet wet as he attempts to improve Mexico's all time record this year, currently sitting at 5-4-8, winning only five matches in 17 and one of six World Cup qualifiers. Mexico are undefeated in friendly matches this year, but they also haven't won any. A win against Ivory Coast would send them into World Cup qualifying with some confidence, if nothing else.

Joining the veterans, "Chepo" has called in newbies and Argentinian duo Christian Gimenez (Cruz Azul) and Damian Alvarez (Tigres).  Gimenez is uncapped, while Alvarez has made one appearance for Mexico - a 2-0 win in February of 2012 against Colombia. 

Mexico has had issues with their attack lately, as was showcased in the Gold Cup and had fans calling for the head of Chepo. One player who made a positive impact was  24 year old Marco Fabian, who had three goals in five matches, putting his name on the map here in the states. And with the talent in midfield of Angel Reyna who leads Liga MX in scoring with seven goals for Veracruz, meshed in with forwards Raul Jimenez, Oribe Peralta and Gio Dos Santos, one would think Mexico has enough ammo to be able to apply the pressure and figure it out, even without Javier Hernandez who has been ruled out due to injury.  But problems in their midfield have prevented any cohesion and symmetry between players, leading to giveaways and frustration.

Needing to anchor their backline against a dangerous attacking Ivory Coast team, Tigres duo Carlos Salcido and Jorge Torres Nilo have been called up, in addition to Club America defenders Miguel Layun and Francisco Javier Rodríguez. Monterrey's Severo Meza is in there as well, and European players Hector Moreno (Espanyol/Spain) and Diego Reyes (Porto/Portugal) will also be viable options to hold it down in front of goalkeeper Jesus Corona.

For the Africans, Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure are doubtful for tonight, which might have Chepo breathing a minor sigh of relief, but don't count this Ivory Coast team out just because they don't boast two of their biggest stars. Watch out for Eredivisie's Wilfried Bony, who lead the league last season with 31 goals, and had 37 goals across all competitions.  It's likely we could see an appearance from former Arsenal forward Gervinho, and  Salomon Kalou can also cause some big problems, especially for teams who can't hold it together cohesively, kind of like Mexico these days. The striker has 21 goals in 57 appearances for Ivory Coast since 2007, and 14 in 28 for his club team at Lille since last season.

On paper and given recent displays, one would think Ivory Coast would sail through this match with an easy victory, but I'm not giving up on Mexico that easily, so I'm going goal heavy in my prediction of 3-2 in favor of Mexico. Without Drogba and Toure, Kalou and Gervinho will have to step up to the plate, but I don't think it will be enough to hold off Fabian, Reyna, Peralta, Jimenez or Dos Santos. Let's hope this friendly match for Mexico displays competence and creativity rather than confusion and lack of control.

Rosters:

MEXICO:

GOALKEEPERS: Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)

DEFENDERS: Miguel Layun (Club America), Severo Meza (Monterrey), Hector Moreno (Espanyol/Spain), Diego Reyes (Porto/Portugal), Francisco Javier Rodríguez (Club America), Carlos Salcido (Tigres), Jorge Torres Nilo (Tigres)

MIDFIELDERS: Damian Alvarez (Tigres), Fernando Arce (Club Tijuana), Christian Gimenez (Cruz Azul), Luis Montes (Leon), Angel Reyna (Veracruz), Gerardo Torrado (Cruz Azul), Jesus Zavala (Monterrey)

FORWARDS: Giovani Dos Santos (Villarreal), Marco Fabian (Guadalajara), Raul Jimenez (Club America), Oribe Peralta (Santos)


IVORY COAST:

GOALKEEPERS: Boubacar Barry (Lokeren, Belgium), Badra Ali Sangare (Ivoire Academie, Ivory Coast)

DEFENDERS: Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro(Toulouse, France), Benjamin Angoua (Valenciennes, France), Serge Aurier (Toulouse, France), Souleman Bamba (Trazbonspor, Turkey), Arthur Boka (Stuttgart, Germany), Viera Darrassouba (Caykur Rizespor, Turkey), Brice Dja Djedje (Evian, France), Didier Zokora (Trazbonspor, Turkey)

MIDFIELDERS: Bobley Anderson (Malaga, Spain), Jean-jacques Gosso-Gosso (Glençlerbirligi SK, Turkey), Abdul Razak (Manchester City, England), Geoffrey Serey Die (Bale, Switzerland), Giovanni Sio (Wolsburg, Germany), Cheikh Tiote (Newcastle, England), Yaya Toure (Manchester City, England)

FORWARDS: Mathis Bolly (Dusseldorf, Germany), Wilfried Bony (Swansea, England), Gervinho (Arsenal, England), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray, Turkey), Salomon Kalou (Lille, France), Cyriac Gohi bi Zoro (Anderlecht, Belgium)