Friday, 4 April 2014

How Yaya Toure & the underperforming Elephants can find joy in Brazil

How Yaya Toure & the underperforming Elephants can find joy in Brazil
While the central midfielder performs wonders for Manchester City, he has struggled to recreate his inspiring form for the Cote d'Ivoire
FEATURE
By David Atana
The world seems to be at the feet of Ivorian international Gnegneri Yaya Toure at the moment. Not only does he score at will these days for Manchester City, he does so in fantastic fashion.  While many say he is the best midfielder in the English Premier League, others choose to regard him as one of the finest box-to-box midfielders in the world.
Already this season he has scored 17 league goals which, for a midfielder in a league as strong as the EPL, is an outstanding feat. He is one of the highest-scoring midfielders in Europe this season.
All the above achievements are testament to the calibre of player Yaya has become since he left Barcelona for Manchester City in 2010. A few years ago, he was just a defensive midfielder, with little more than degrees separating him from a whole clutch of African players of a similar mould.
The fact that Yaya Toure has failed to replicate his excellent club form in his national team colours like his fellow Ivorian stars is no longer news. This can be likened to his former team-mate Lionel Messi's inability to carry the Argentina national team on his shoulders prior to the coming of their present coach Alessandro Sabella.
Toure & Messi | Similar concerns in the international arena
Toure, 30, has failed to perform outstandingly for the Elephants of Ivory Coast when it has mattered most, particularly at important tournaments such as the Cup of Nations.
At the 2012 and 2013 editions of the tournament, the Ivorian looked more like an ordinary squad member than like a player who has now been named the African Footballer of the Year thrice in a row. He managed to score twice and provided an assist at the last edition of the continental tournament in South Africa, even though his country were pooled in a weaker group than some of the other fancied sides.
In the quarter-final game against Nigeria, the Manchester City warhorse looked lost in midfield. The Nigerian duo of Ogenyi Onazi and John Obi Mikel marshalled the centre of the pitch, making it easier for the Super Eagles to break down the opposition attacks and set up counter attacks at will. It was this advantage that led to Nigeria’s winning goal, Sunday Mba running through the massed Ivorian defenders before firing his name into the history books. 
To date, Yaya Toure has amassed a total of 82 caps for the Ivorian national team and scored 16 goals. With this year being a World Cup year, this issue of underperformance should be taken seriously by the Elephants because at the global football event they will surely meet stronger opposition than the African prey they had too often struggled to overcome in recent years.
Toure isn't the only Ivorian superstar to have underperformed for the Elephants
Although it is true that the widely-publicised 'Golden Generation' of the Ivory Coast might have failed as a whole, ought the blame for their failure not be placed predominantly onto the side’s star names?
Too often, the side’s big names have wilted when the pressure has been on them.
At club level, this simply hasn’t been the case; Yaya Toure demonstrated, against Sunderland in the recent League Cup Final, how he is capable of changing the complexion of a major game. By the same token, Didier Drogba is rightly revered by Chelsea fans for the way he single-handedly turned the tide their way in the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich in 2012.
Toure, for his part, has not looked like an all-conquering midfield powerhouse when coming up against supposedly weaker African midfields.
If the Ivorian team has any hope of making a mark at this year's showpiece, they must look for viable solutions to the underwhelming performances too often delivered by their key players, especially Toure.
So, just why does the Manchester City midfielder struggle to replicate his impressive club form for the national side?
The closest answer might not be far from the fans’ incorrect typology of the player and consequently, the impact they expect from him. 
Toure, as wonderful as he is as a midfielder, is by no means a traditional playmaker, thus while he scores cracking goals and creates few chances, he is not, in my opinion, to be held responsible for carrying the entire burden of Cote d’Ivoire.
In order for the Elephants to realise their potential at the World Cup, Toure must be surrounded by the right kind of players. He must be allowed to act as a driving force for a side, an effective approach, but not the sole approach.
For this, I believe he must be courted by at least one fellow creative talent within the midfield.
Here, we may stumble upon the Ivorians’ key weakness; they can boast tenacious defensive midfielders in the style of Cheick Tiote, Serey Die and Gosso Gosso, but with regards to central defenders who can take the creative burden from Toure, there is little beyond the inconsistencies of Romaric.
If too much creative and attacking burden is placed upon Toure then his performances may suffer and he will likely, once again, fail to make the kind of glittering contribution that has become almost commonplace at City.
Unless they can find a balance in midfield, and allow Yaya to flourish, the Golden Generation could be set for further disappointment.
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