Emerse Fae, who served as the deputy coach, has now taken the role of interim coach of the Ivory Coast following the departure of Jean-Louis Gasset.
The 40-year-old is tasked with the challenging responsibility of leading the Elephants against the current African champions, Senegal, in a Round of 16 clash of AFCON 2024 on Monday.
The host nation was on the brink of elimination, but Morocco’s 1-0 win over Zambia ensured that Ivory Coast will retain their status in the tournament.
However, they will need to perform exceptionally well against the Terranga Lions on Monday.
Senegal brings their flawless record at this AFCON to their showdown in Yamoussoukro. Confident victories over Gambia, Cameroon, and Guinea have established them as the favourites to retain their crown.
Winning the game will be massive for the Elephants to get up early on, putting nerves to bed and easing some pressure off Fae’s shoulders after some recent torrid displays from a team winless in two games.
Here are two key strategies Fae can adopt to upset Senegal.
Stop the Senegal supply line to Sadio Mane
Mane is more than just good; he is entirely capable of single-handedly winning matches. Stopping him is nearly impossible once he has the ball in a dangerous area.
Therefore, Fae must focus on limiting his opportunities to receive the ball in those critical areas.
Stopping Mane requires more than just marking him. The Ivory Coast forwards must cut off the passing lines to him when he drops deep, while the defenders need to be prepared for the inevitable occasions when he breaks through.
We never thought we'd be saying this, but Wilfried Singo and Ghislain Konan could learn a thing or two from Gambia's full-backs in that regard. Saidy Janko and Ibou Touray delivered the performance of their lives against their neighbours, making some outstanding tackles on the Al-Nassr player.
The importance of Seko Fofana
Regarding Monday’s opponents, Fofana will be vital to helping Fae's side break through Senegal during attacking transitions. The Al-Nassr midfielder is unbelievably quick for a central midfield player, which is one of the reasons why Fofana is shoehorned out to the attack when the Ivory Coast are in dire need of a goal.
On top of this, he is explosive on the ball and is able to burst through pressure from onrushing midfielders and defenders, beating them with his underrated dribbling. For the most part, Fofana's dribbling won’t be overly helpful for Fae’s Ivory Coast in this match due to Senegal being likely to sit back and soak up pressure.
However, there will be times when Senegal are forced to come out and be a little more expansive with their play. When these moments occur, Fofana will be vital for hitting the West Africans on the break. Being on the back foot against a counterattack is one area where Senegal has really struggled under Aliou Cisse.
The manager is keen for his side to counter-press upon losing possession, bunching together to regain the ball and stopping the opposition’s counter as far up the pitch as possible. Unfortunately, this has sometimes left the side exploitable once the initial counterpress is broken.
Counterpressing is when a team hunts down the ball in packs in a structured manner as soon as possession is turned over to the hands of the opposition. Plenty of sides in the modern game counter-press.
The likes of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola revolutionised football over the last decade by integrating fascinating methods into their tactics.
The key factor for this to be a success is having energy in the midfield. But Cisse’s midfield does not have the energy to sustain this momentum throughout the game. Counterpressing will be more difficult due to this.
This is where Fofana can tear them to shreds, using his explosive speed and dribbling to bypass midfield pressure and beating the counter-press to leave the defensive line vulnerable.