Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Ivory Coast coach Ibrahim Kamara defends team selection after quarter-final exit, says tournament an internship for youngsters

Ivory Coast coach Ibrahim Kamara appeared confident that his side were on the right path for the future despite quarter-final exit against Algeria

Reuters July 12, 2019 16:03:53 IST
Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Ivory Coast coach Ibrahim Kamara defends team selection after quarter-final exit, says tournament an internship for youngsters
  • Ivory Coast coach Ibrahim Kamara defended his team selection after the team lost to Algeria in the quarter-finals 4-3 on penalties

  • Crystal Palace speedster Wilfried Zaha was a surprise omission from the line-up in two group matches, while Kamara left Nicolas Pepe out of the side for Thursday’s game

  • Pepe’s 22 goals for Lille in the last Ligue 1 season have made him a transfer target for several top clubs but he was unable to find the net in Egypt

Cairo: Ivory Coast coach Ibrahim Kamara’s team selections raised eyebrows throughout the Africa Cup of Nations but even after their quarter-final exit to Algeria he stuck to his guns, saying they had laid the foundations for a bright future.

The Ivorians, who lost in a penalty shootout after drawing 1-1 in Suez on Thursday, had the potential to light up the tournament but never quite got the best out of their top players Nicolas Pepe and Wilfried Zaha.

Africa Cup of Nations 2019 Ivory Coast coach Ibrahim Kamara defends team selection after quarterfinal exit says tournament an internship for youngsters

Ivory Coast players react during the penalty shoot-out against Algeria. Reuters

Crystal Palace speedster Zaha was a surprise omission from the starting line-up in two group matches, while Kamara left Pepe out of the side for Thursday’s game. Pepe’s 22 goals for Lille in the last Ligue 1 season have made him a transfer target for several top clubs but he was unable to find the net in Egypt.

Zaha gave fleeting glimpses of his ability when selected but a lack of consistency was always going to make things difficult. Kamara said his selection decisions had been influenced by the opposition.

“We did not change just for the sake of change,” said the coach, “but rather to solve the questions that our opponents asked of us.” African champions in 2015 – at the end of a golden generation spearheaded by Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure – the Ivorians have been through three coaches in the four years since that triumph while looking to rebuild their team.

The likes of Pepe and Zaha are seen as key elements of a potentially exciting new generation. “To build a team takes time,” Kamara added after his side lost 4-3 on penalties. “This Cup of Nations was an internship that allowed the younger players to understand and learn. This is a squad that will improve in future competitions.”

Kamara said he was confident Ivory Coast would be back to challenge again for the continental title and for a place at the World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

“Our next immediate target is the next Cup of Nations in 2021. It is necessary to prepare now, keep this same state of mind for future battles,” the coach added.

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