Renard criticises Mali playing style

The Cote d’Ivoire coach shows his frustration over the opposition’s physical approach, but is pleased with the performance from Yaya Toure, who helped set up a late equaliser

Herve Renard called for an improved performance from two of his key players, Yaya Toure and Serge Aurier, and he got it as they combined to set up Max Gradel’s equaliser in a tense, gripping and extremely physical game in Malabo.

For the second time a late goal earned Cote d’Ivoire a 1-1 draw, but this was a far tougher game than the opener against Guinea. “We played better in the second half than the first half in the Guinea game, and we played better overall in our second game than the first game,” said coach Renard.

“Now we must see what we need to do against Cameroon to reach the quarter-finals [on Wednesday], and just concentrate on our objective. “

Renard had spent much of the afternoon kicking water bottles and shouting at the heavens. “Yes, I was angry today, but not with my own players,” he said.

Cheick Tiote is no wimp but he went down three times in the closing minutes, complaining of injury after a bad foul by Sambou Yatabare, who was lucky to be shown only a yellow card. Earlier in the match Yaya Toure had confronted Yatabare after another fierce challenge.

Tiote hobbled back into the game, and at the final whistle he was one of four Ivorian players who were flat on their backs, exhausted after the battering they had taken in 32 Celsius heat.

Mali were rough, they wasted time, they took five minutes to replace their injured goalkeeper Soumaila Diakite, and they frustrated their opponents throughout the game. Renard said, “The Confederation of African Football support Fair Play so I will say no more, it’s too late now anyway – the game is over. But I’m sure you understand why I was angry.”

Yaya Toure showed his frustration too, arguing with opposing players and on two occasions berating his own teammates, Eric Bailly and Aurier, for misplaced passes.

Before the game Renard had said he needed more from Toure, and a better showing from attacking full-back Aurier, who was Ivory Coast’s best player at the World Cup.

Toure kept probing  and played a precise pass through to Aurier in the 87th minute. The Paris Saint-Germain man, who improved as the game wore on, crossed for substitute Gradel to score.

It was the second time the goalscorer came off the bench – Seydou Doumbia did it against Guinea – and Renard can feel pleased with his tactical changes, which included replacing the error-prone Ismael Diomande seven minutes before half-time. He also took off Wilfried Bony near the end.

“We had to adapt as the game went on,” he said. “Our midfield was consistent.”

Mali’s captain, Keita, disagreed with his manager Henri Kasperczak, who said the draw was a good result. “Make no mistake, we lost two points today,” said Keita. “Never mind Ivory Coast’s reputation, those were points dropped.” It was the third straight 1-1 draw in the group.