By Jacob Ajom
Palpable tension and uncertainty have enveloped the Ivory Coast camp, after pulling a surprise goalless draw with less-fancied Burkina Faso in their opening group match played Monday, in Cabinda.

The Ivorians who were the clear pre-tournament favourites were unfortunate to have met their bogey team, Burkina Faso who were in the same qualifying group for the Angola/South Africa 2010 tournaments. Although the Didier Drogba-led Ivory Coast were the better for it, after a two-legged match-up, they were stretched by the meek Burkinabes.

After the disappointing draw on Monday, the Ivorian skipper, Drogba, was quick to tell whoever cared to listen that the heinous attack on Togo national team and the events that followed had a debilitating effect on him and his squad mates. It was indeed a match the Ivorians could have won, all things being equal, as they dominated most of the encounter. That is not to take anything away  from the Burkinabes who have been living under the shadows of their bigger rivals over the years.

But the unexpected draw with Burkina Faso was, perhaps, the signal the Ivorians needed to bring them back to reality. Yet, the bigger challenge for the Ivorians is here as Michael Essien and Ghana stare them in the face. Who blinks first? It’s difficult to say.

With a sagged spirit and the uncertainty surrounding their fate in the tournament, Ivory Coast would need an extra ounce of energy, determination and luck to face a charged Ghanaian team that is yet to taste action in the competition.
But Ivory Coast already have one point.

They stand a better chance to scale through even if the tie ends in another draw. With the hunger for glory written all over Drogba’s face, the calibre of players on parade for The Elephants and the anxiety in camp, the likes of Solomon Kalou, Kolo and Yaya Toure, Emmanuel Ebue, Aruna Didane, Bakari Kone among others would want to prove a point by reaffirming their high rating with a victory over The Black Stars.

Ghana on their part would not want to start their campaign like their western neighbours.  The Black Stars are tipped as one of the possible winners of the tournament and to justify this rating, they have to put up a credible show worthy of strong contenders. Essien’s responsibilities, just like Drogba are eDrogba and Essien: Who blinks first?

normous. He was made captain of The Black Stars after it was established that influential captain, Stephen Appiah was out of the Angola squad due to injury. With or without Appiah, Ghana have an array of stars capable of rediscovering their rich heritage in African football. With the likes of Asamoah Gyan, John Mensah, Eric Addo, Emmanuel Agyemang Badu, Dede Ayew,  Rahim Ayew are among the glut of stars Essien will be leading against the Ivory Coast.

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