Ivory Coast got the win they sought but it was hardly an impressive start to their tournament. This team went through last year's tournament without conceding a goal but they should have let in at least three here as they looked slow and uncertain at the back. They were pretty uninspired further forward, with Drogba ably contained by Bossou, and only Gervinho and Yaya Touré looking dangerous. It still took a deflection and a goalkeeping error (and a Zlatan-esque finish from Gervinho) for them to score.
What an escape for Ivory Coast! Adebayor looped a pass into the danger zone, Bossou flicked it on and Djene hurled himself at it to send a brave header towards goals from six yards. Barry showed brilliant agility to turn it away with one hand!
Former Aston Villa player Moustapha Salifou comes on, Nibombe trudges off.
GOAL! Ivory Coast 2-1 Togo (Gervinho 88)
Gervinho produces an immaculate finish! Yaya Touré delivery from a freekick from the right was wonderful, Agassa's attempt to cut it out was dreadful, and Gervinho daintily flipped the ball into the net with his heel on the volley! It looks like the Ivorians are going to get the victory they expected but they'll know their performance has barely merited it, although it has certainly been better in the second half.
More terrible defending from the Togolese corner allows the ball to roll all the way to Bossou at the far post. His fierce shot deflects off Tioté's head and flies just over the bar.
Bony intervenes to prevent Togo plundering a shock winner, heading a vicious freekick behind for a corner ...
Lie a fairy tale for which the animals in the script overslept so had to be replaced at short notice, the Elephants are huffing and puffing but can't break down the Sparrowhawks' door.
Yaya plays a clever ball wide to Gervinho, who has escaped the congestion in-field but can't produce an adequate cross.
Togo are seeking to hold out for a draw, as indicated by the substitution of Ayité for Sigbefia. And their blanket defence over the last 10 minutes.
A miss! A palpable miss! Gervinho darted into the box after tow defenders collided with each other. He then played the ball perfectly into the path of Yaya Touré, who had the whole goal to aim at from 15 yards but shot into the keeper's arms!
Ivory Coast substitution: Lamouchi, unlike most of his predecessors, has the stones to take off Drogba when he's been playing plod, as has been the case today. Bony, the top scorer in the Dutch league, takes his place.
Kalou slaloms his way infield, beating two defenders before the ball is booted off his toe and out for a corner. Yaya Touré meets the out-swinger but can't direct his header on target.
That is rank. Drogba has been starved of decent service for most of the game but he was given the ball in a promising area just now and had team-mates awaiting a cross in the box. But he Gervinhoed it into the stands.
A rare counter-attack by Togo yields a corner. Ivory Coast's marking from it is shoddy but Togo fail to take advantage and the Elephants eventually whack the ball back down the other end.
Drogba, as it is almost needless to add, hit the freekick into the wall. That's actually an improvement on his previous efforts.
Drogba is tugged to the ground by Amewou, giving Ivory Coast another freekick in a potentially dangerous position. You know that cliche about the ultimate test being a cold and wet night in Stoke? Well, I'd like to see Leo Messi try his luck against this Togo team on this pitch. He'd struggle to make an impact, especially in the suit of armour he'd be advised to wear ...
Here comes Cheik Tioté in place of Ya Konan. Not sure that's going to do much to reduce the foul rate ...
Controversy! Ivory Coast had just made a change, with Kalou replacing Gradel, and Togo swung in their corner and jumped in delight as Nibombe headed into the net! But the ref disallowed it, seemingly on the basis that the substitution had not actually been completed. As soon as play resumes, Nibombe cops a yellow for an outrageous tackle on Yaya Touré. It was high, dangerous and surely worthy of a red.
Yet another foul gives Ivory Coast yet another freekick. It's about 20 yards out and Drogba, not discouraged by his previous effort, wants to take it. Tiené counsel him against doing so and takes it himself .... and bangs it straight into the wall.
Yaya Touré picks out Ya Konan with a wonderful pass from half-way. The forward takes one touch to control it and then fires off a shot from 10 yards. The keeper parries nicely.
The Ivorians are being a little more assertive this half and are forcing Togo to defend deep. But no sign of any real creativity so far.
"Maestro" has been ordered off the pitch to get the tape around his socks spray-painted so that it matches his socks. ' Sake.
Drogba, relishing some time on the ball, takes a while to size up a freekick. undeterred by the fact that it is 35 yards from goal, he sends a shot ... into Namibia.
Romao booked for tripping Gervinho. I make that the 2,356th foul in this staccato game.
The second half gets under way with the same personnel that took part, with varying efficiency, in the first.
That's what you get, Ivory Coast, when you think you can stroll to victory. How do you not know that by now? Carry on like this and there is a fair to middling chance that Togo will go on to win here.
Drogba has been largely irrelevant and the Ivorian defence has been as rickety as expected, especially Kolo Touré. Borther Yaya has been better and Gervinho has been intermittently dangerous but, overall, the Ivorian midfield and attackers have failed to live up to their billing. Especially Didier Zokora: did I mention that his jersey is adorned with his nickname rather than his formal name? Yes, he has "Maestro" on his back.
GOAL! Ivory Coast 1-1 Togo (J Ayité 45+2)
A powerful low corner from the right is allowed to travel into the six-yard box, where Ayité reacts quickest to sweep it into the net!
Fine play! Firstly Gervinho showed tricky feet to snap a pass to Yaya Touré, who instantly blemmed the ball at goal from 16 yards. It whizzed through defenders and cannoned out off the crossbar!
A lovely turn from Gervinho, in fairness, and a well-intentioned through-ball to Drogba, who gets a little shove from Djene and falls over. No penalty, just a corner.
Gervinho receives the ball on the right. He has several team-mates in the box, all of whom would welcome an accurate pass. Arsenal fans, you know what happened next, right? Right.
Barry charges out of his area to intercept a ball over the top. Ignoring the presence of Adebayor, he takes the ball down on his chest and then wellies it upfield, almost putting Gervinho through.
A lull. "I've lived in Africa for 10 years, and I usually watch this malarkey - if only to have some 'banter' for my colleagues at work - but I've really had enough of this tournament," fumes Richard Hands. "With rare exceptions, these are second division international sides, coached by third rate managers (all of whom appear to be Frenchmen). Let's be frank: the ACN is an awful tournament. Nobody comes to watch, the football is almost without exception physically demanding but tactically ultra conservative, graceless and excrutiatingly unadventurous." A bit sweeping obviously, but your assessment has merit, particularly with regard to the negativity of many of the coaches. As for second-rate teams, that is partially a consequence of expanding the tournament and you will certainly see plenty of matches as uninspiring as, say, the pair that Group A served up on Saturday, when the Euros are broadened to include half the continent.
Symptomatic of the Ivorian's negligence, Gradel gets a booking for wandering off the pitch without permission to (I think) change his jersey or something. When he ambles back on the ref gives him a yellow.
The question now must be: are Ivory Coast actually capable of raising their game. They're dreadfully passive and that mindset is emboldening the Togolese, who've just gone close again with a shot from the edge of the area.
Kolo Touré, again looking alarmingly rusty, concedes a freekick at the edge of the area. Gakpé, unsurprisingly, fancies his chances ... and curls it over the bar.
Adebayor's in the mood now! He seems driven by a desire to atone for his early miss ... and Eboué has yet to get wise to him: the Spurs man has just galloped 50 yards before hurtling past the former Arsenal defender and pulling the ball back across the face of goal. His burst of speed seemed to take even his team-mates by surprise and none of them had anticipated the pass. The defence accept it gratefully.
More uncertain defending, this time by Bamba and Tiené. It led to crossing opportunities for Togo and although those crosses were well dealt with, the Ivorians really need to get their act together.
After weak defending by Eboué, Adebayor wins the ball and lays it into the path of Gakpé, who tries another long-range shot and again goes close. But not close enough.
Ivory Coast still seem to be playing within themselves and Togo are enjoying quite a bit of possession,. with Gakpé and J Ayité looking dangerous. "Zaha is clearly regarded as a prospect for the future that England, as well as a fair few football clubs, seem interested in," notes Jmes Kenny. "Given he is eligible to play for the Ivorians (by nature of him actually being an Ivorian), would it not have been prudent from the Ivory Coast FA to call him up for this? Surely the pull of playing in a major tournament for the country of your birth is a more likely to sway him than a phone call from Didier. Also, would he get in the squad?" Firstly, yes, he would certainly get in the squad (ahead of Salomon Kalou, for instance). Secondly, Lamouchi has tried to persuade him to declare for Ivory Coast and apparently decided forcing the youngster into a decision by summoning for this tournament would not be the best way to convince him.
Gakpé collects the ball mid-way inside the Ivorian half, then turns and let fly with an excellent shot that whizzes just past the post! That's a warning to the Elephants that they'll likely need another goal to secure victory here. Indeed, given how tight this group could be, they've be aswell to rack up as many goals as possible.
Strong work by Drogba to hold of a defender and the n swivel and put a ball behind the defence for Gervinho to chase. The alert Agassa scampers out of his box to boot clear.
Gervinho does well again, skedaddling down the right before winning a corner. Gardel clips it in, Agassa drops it under pressure from Bamba and, all too predictably, the referee awards a free out for a non-existent foul on an over-protected keeper.
GOAL! Ivory Coast 1-0 Togo (Y Touré 8)
The Elephants stomp into the Togolese box for the first time in the game and open the scoring thanks to a mighty deflection. Gervinho did well, dashing down the right before wriggling his way into the area and showing uncharacteristic awareness to pull the ballk back to Touré, whose first-time shot from 16 yards ricocheted off Amewou and past the Agassa.
The Ivorians have regained a little composure after that ridiculous opening but they may well be too composed: there's certainly no sign yet of the high tempo and bold assertiveness that Lamouchi demanded.
All-round awfulness, featuring Kolo Touré and Mr Adebayor! First Touré showcased the defensive dodginess I mentioned, failing to bother putting enough energy into a backpass. Adebayor accepted the invitation to intercept it ... and then showed Touré-esque lethargy as he tried to amble around the keeper rather than drive the ball into the net from eight yards. Barry read his predictable attempted dribble and poked the ball away. Not even getting a shot off there was inexcusable.
Textbook kick-off from Togo, who waste no time getting the ball forward to Mr Adebayor, who loses possession with equal swiftness.
The Rustenberg stadium looks approximately 9% full. Wouldn't it have been an idea if, having noticed that ticket sales were low, organisers distributed the tens of thousands of spares to school kids or arranged a giant free raffle open to everyone? That would surely increase the jollity quotient in an arena sadly lacking in atmos at the moment.
Here are the men Drogba & Co must emulate. What chance a repeat of that final line-up?
Hello and welcome to the latest attempt by the Ivory Coast to avoid bungling a chance to be crowned champions of Africa. This is probably the last opportunity that the likes of Didier Drogba and the Touré brothers will get to garnish glittering careers with that elusive gong. They've had bad luck in the past but also bad attitudes and weak management and that has cost them against opponents who turned out to be better than they expected and more coherent. Togo are unlikely to fall into that category given a chaotic build-up and so-so squad - in fact, Emmanuel Adebayor's & Co are probably headed for a bottom place finish in this strong group. I can show such dismissiveness because I'm not playing against them: the Elephants would be well advised to treat them seriously to avoid going the way of Gabon in the play-offs.
Of course, it will take more than focus for Ivory Coast to win this tournament. It will take better defending than they showed during the build-up (it is not especially encouraging to see that Tiené has retained his place) and more concerted team play: they have had a tendency to play rather ponderously in the hope that one of their gifted individuals will conjure something special: manager Sabri Lamouchi has called for them to do more as a unit to force the issue and to play at a speed apt to unhinge opponents. Yes, let's have some of that. Action, that's what we're after here.
Ivory Coast: Copa; Eboué, Bamba, K. Touré, Tiéné; Zokora, Yaya Touré, Ya Konan; Gradel, Drogba, Gervinho.
Togo: Agassa; Akakpo, Boussou, Nibombé, Gafar; Amewou, Romao, Segbefia; Dové Womé, Adebayor, J. Ayité.
Paul will be here shortly. In the meantime, here's an excerpt from Jonathan Wilson's piece on Zambia v Ethiopia:
The good news for Zambia is that Herve Renard remains unbeaten while wearing white at the Cup of Nations. The bad news is that the champions began their defence of the Cup of Nations with a draw against Ethiopia and that it took all the luck Herve's costume could muster even to get away with that – despite the Walya Antelopes having to play the last hour with 10 men.
Last week, Renard insisted that the squad was "better than last year at the same stage. But look what happened then: we had nothing to show for ourselves and we won the tournament." He has been keen to praise their discipline – "in one year, there has been no problem. Not a player showing up late for a training camp, no behaviour problem" – which again represents a contrast to last year when the midfielder Clifford Mulenga was sent home for failing to apologise after breaking a curfew. Disappointing friendly results, Renard said, could be explained by the desire to give as many players as possible a game, and even then his side had played well without capitalising on their chances.
There was an element of that against Ethiopia – Zambia had 18 shots off target, more shots than any side managed in any game at the last Cup of Nations – and on a better, less bobbly pitch, they may have been able to take advantage of their superiority. Renard, to his credit, didn't use the abysmal surface – difficult weather conditions haven't helped, but the uneven pitch is surely related to the white elephant nature of the stadium, which doesn't host football on a regular basis – as an excuse, perhaps because he knew that the high bounce had saved his side in the first half and that, until Ethiopia had their goalkeeper, Jemal Tassew, sent off, Ethiopia had looked by far the more threatening side.
And the ludicrous highlight: Jemal Tassew's red card