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Cool, calm Sven is ready to collect for Ivorians


I couldn’t help myself - I had to see him again. It was a force too strong for me. I went back for more Sven and it wasn’t a disappointment. He glittered again, and I saw that he wasn’t a one-conference wonder. He is the real thing.


After seeing his Cote d’Ivoire side draw 1-1 with Portugal, Sven was asked in the post-match press conference about the vuvuzelas that are creating such a din at the matches. Does it stop the coach from barking orders to his players?

"Imagine with my voice, even if it’s quiet in the stadium, I have difficulty…" And he chuckled boyishly at his inflections.

"No, you have to bring out players to speak. Even if you have a very strong voice, I think it is very difficult. On the other hand, it’s folklore.

"It’s like a party, so the atmosphere is very good, so I think that’s maybe more important for football than if the coach can get out the message."

Football the winner? Sven is the victor.

Perhaps Ivorian football too. In 2006, in their first World Cup appearance, Cote d’Ivoire were drawn with Argentina, the Netherlands and Serbia.

The debutants were turned over by the South Americans and the Dutch. They showed what could have been by beating Serbia. But out went the Ivorians.

Four years later Cote d’Ivoire are in a group containing Brazil, the world’s best team and the second best European team.

Tuesday afternoon’s 1-1 draw is not a bad result. Portugal are the planet’s third best side (Spain are second) while the Ivorians are ranked at 27.

And if both Portugal and Cote d’Ivoire lose against Brazil, then the result against North Korea will be the key to the Ivorian quest to advance to the second round.

The North Koreans lost on Tuesday night 2-1 to the Brazilians. Both Brazilian goals came in the second period. So either that means Brazil weren’t that good for the first 45 minutes, or the North Koreans aren’t a bad outfit.

This is only the second time the North Koreans have been at the World Cup. The last time was in England in 1966, and they got to the last eight famously toppling Italy 1- 0 in the group stages and going 3-0 up against Portugal before their Eusebio-led comeback.

Portugal play the North Koreans on Monday in Cape Town. The Ivorians are up against them on 25 June in Nelspruit.

The Africans will know by then if they have to bang in a dozen or not.

That’s not a bad scenario. And with Sven steering the vessel, there won’t be any complacency.

"Pay attention, South Korea play good football. If I’m not wrong, North Korea were in the same group as South Korea for qualification and the two games between them were two draws. I think we should respect them."

The Ivorians will be playing to eclipse their 2006 performance. The North Koreans might be trying and emulate their feats of 1966.

High stakes indeed. The Ivorians probably have the edge though with cool hand Sven.

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