With 44 minutes of a nervous first-half gone, Gervinho won the ball on the left of midfield. Showing the skill that made him one of the stars of the 2010 World Cup and resulted in a move to Arsenal, he dribbled down the wing, cut into the box and passed the ball into the net. It was a goal that his Arsenal teammate, Thierry Henry, would’ve been proud of and the crowd and his teammates went crazy.
Pressure builds in international tournaments and, even though they are yet to concede a goal, you could feel the nerves of the players last night. But one man who remained calm was Yaya Touré.
In every game so far he has been the rock of the team. Calm in possession, he has shown the world why he is rated as one of the best central midfielders in the game. He completed 44 out of 50 passes last night, but his influence on the team was even more impressive than the statistics.
He might not wear the captain’s armband, but he was a captain in every other way. He constantly talked to his teammates, won tackles when Mali looked dangerous and surged forward when he had the opportunity.
An intelligent man, when Yaya talks, people listen. He has spoken this week of how dangerous Zambia are, and was proved right when they defeated Ghana to deny an all PUMA final.
Strong in possession and quick in attack, Zambia will prove difficult opponents in Sunday’s final. Even though they were the pre-tournament favourites, the Elephants will not take Zambia lightly. With three days preparation, the focus will be on how to deny Zambia the ball in their half and attack quickly.
So far, Côte d'Ivoire's performances have been that of champions. With a squad full of players from the world’s best leagues they know all about winning things individually and that experience has been vital. Their supporters will be planning a party for Sunday night, and with the team in this form, no one would bet against it being a long and loud one.