MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, January 23 – Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard admitted on Friday that his emblematic captain Yaya Toure needs to contribute more if the Elephants are to do well at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
Manchester City midfielder Toure, the reigning African footballer of the year, did not have the expected influence over his side in their opening 1-1 draw with Guinea in Group D on Tuesday and was substituted towards the end.
“I think Yaya was a bit tired at the end of the game so it was better for him to come off, but he is a big competitor so he’ll be ready for the second game,” said French coach Renard ahead of Saturday’s group match against Mali in Equatorial Guinea’s capital.
“He has a big responsibility now, with the captain’s armband. I expect a better second game from him than the first one.
“If he is not able to improve his level it will be difficult for the team.”
Renard confirmed that Seydou Doumbia is set to start against the Eagles after coming off the bench to score the equaliser against Guinea, with the suspended Gervinho dropping out.
The Roma forward begins a two-match ban following his red card against Guinea for hitting out at Naby Keita.
Of Gervinho, Renard said: “I said to him that he shouldn’t have done what he did, but I also said to him that I did the same thing when I played football.
“It is the kind of thing that we shouldn’t see on a football pitch but sometimes things happen on the pitch and you get a bit carried away by the pressure or the intimidation of the opposition.
– Apologised –
“Gervinho is one of the star players at this CAN so maybe the Guinea players made an effort to wind him up and unfortunately that worked.
“He apologised to the rest of the squad, which I thought was very good. But I think even without him we have enough quality in attack, although to find the same profile of player is more difficult because there is only one Gervinho.
“But we will get on with it and I’m sure whoever comes in will do the job perfectly well.”
Semi-finalists in 2012 and 2013, Mali performed well in drawing 1-1 with Cameroon in their opening game, led by veteran captain Seydou Keita.
But Renard is confident his team have what it takes to register a first win at these finals.
“Of course we have the weapons to pose problems for Mali. You know at the CAN there are often teams who start well and then in the second game things change a bit,” he said.
“Gabon are an example of that, so we need to remain calm. But when you come up against a team who were semi-finalists at each of the last two CANs you know what to expect.
“They are one of the best teams on the continent, with an emblematic captain. But I think it’s better for the Ivory Coast to face a side of their calibre.”