Holland lifted the ING Cup following an exciting 1-1 draw with the Ivory Coast at the Hong Kong Stadium, where the ‘Young Elephants’ showed that they also could be a team to fear in the Olympics.
Cameroon beat the USA 1-0 in the earlier match through an Aurelien Chedjou penalty, a result that also gave Martin Ndtoungou Mpile’s side a boost of confidence as they seek to regain the Olympic title the ‘Lions’ won at Sydney 2000.
The Dutch were the pre-match favourites for the ING Cup after beating Cameroon 2-0 on Wednesday, but it was the Ivory Coast, resplendent in their all-orange outfit, who won a host of new admirers with some scintillating attacking football.
Holland took the lead through a brilliant 14th minute free-kick Urby Emanuelson, who was named ING Most Valuable Player of the tournament. Ivory Coast captain Gervinho scored a deserved equaliser after stabbing home from close range following a 47th-minute corner.
The brilliant Gervinho had another effort saved off the line and also brilliantly set up a glorious late chance for Abraham Guie Guie who contrived to shoot wide from about eight yards out.
Dutch coach Foppe de Haan, whose side are one of the favourites for the Olympics, was happy his side came away with a draw and their hands on the ING trophy.
“We scored a magnificent goal through Urby, but we were a little bit lucky,” said De Haan. “We had a lot of problems with the Ivory Coast and were losing the ball too much. We could have lost this game.”
Ivory Coast coach Gerard Gili believes his team will progress through the group stage of the upcoming Olympics after seeing his charges continue to improve following last Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Korea Republic in Suwon and Wednesday’s scoreless draw with the USA in Hong Kong.
“If we had converted our chances, we could have won tonight,” said the Frenchman. “We’re very happy with this week as we’ve come through two matches played at a high level.”
Both teams started impressively, with midfielder Evander Sno’s long-range effort in the third minute athletically tipped over by Vincent de Paul Angban
Four minutes later Gervinho’s angled shot forced a save from Kenneth Vermeer, while in the 10th minute Sekou Cisse’s left-footed shot went inches past the far post.
The Dutch took the lead through Emanuelson’s spectacular free-kick, the national team midfielder curling his left-footed shot into the corner of the net. It was a telling response from the Ajax midfielder after being fouled by towering central defender Ousmane Viera Diarrassouba.
Ivory Coast were the more enterprising side after that, with Gervinho, Cisse and the roaming Salomon Kalou working well together, while Kafoumba Coulibaly, another national team player, had another impressive performance at the heart of the midfield.
Just before half-time, Gervinho’s glancing header from Serge Pascal Wawa’s teasing cross went inches past the post.
However, the Le Mans striker made no mistake at the start of the second half, poking home from close range from Sekou Cisse’s towering header following Coulibaly’s inswinging corner.
Holland also had their fair share of chances. The six-foot six-inch Gerald Sibon, who came on for Ryan Babel at half-time, saw his spectacular 30-yard effort fly just over the bar in the 57th minute and three minutes later midfielder Evander Sno saw his drive from the edge of the area strike pushed past the post by Angban.
Jonathan de Guzman also tried his luck from distance in the 62nd minute, but the Ivory Coast goalkeeper was again up to the task. The Feyenoord star went even closer two minutes later when following a well worked move between Emanuelson, Makaay and Sibon, the 20-year-old hit the crossbar with a curled effort from outside the box.
Gervinho then came close when he dribbled into the area and saw his shot half-saved by Vermeer, but left-back Calvin Jong-A-Pin rescued his side by heading the ball off the line.
Coulibaly’s clever lob put Kalou through on goal in the 78th minute, but Vermeer was quick to spot the danger and blocked the Chelsea star’s close-range shot.
Ivory Coast should have scored a second in the 83rd minute, but Guie Guie, who came on two minutes earlier, managed to shoot wide from eight yards out after being set up by Gervinho following a brilliant turn and dribble by the Ivory Coast captain, who could prove one of the stars of the Olympics.
Cameroon and the USA were also in a positive mood after an exciting encounter in which both sides created good opportunities.
Both teams attacked from the start, with Cameroon winger Alain Junior Olle Olle testing US goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the second minute with a shot from outside the area. Three minutes later Cameroon’s giant defender Andre Bikey hit the crossbar with a header from a corner.
Cameroon should have taken the lead in the eighth minute when right-winger Aurelien Chedjou was teed up after a great run by dyed-blond striker Serge Ngal in the area, but the 23-year-old Lille star miscued his shot badly with a clear sight of goal.
Chedjou made amends in the 24th minute when he coolly converted a penalty after Michael Bradley fouled Turkey-based Gustave Mbangue.
Later in the half, Bikey again went close from a Chedjou corner, but his powerful header was saved on the line by Robbie Rogers.
Jozy Altidore, whose recent US$10 million transfer to Villareal made him the most expensive American player ever, had a good chance in the 39th minute when he flicked the ball over Bikey but the 18-year-old’s half-volley flew from outside the area flew over the crossbar.
Brian McBride had a good chance in the 56th minute, but the 36-year-old headed straight at goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb from Bradley’s cross.
Mohican-haired Frank Songo’o, who replaced Chedjou in the 57th minute, came close after a great one-two with Mbangue but lost his footing after a challenge by Maurice Edu on the edge of the area.
Teenage Freddy Adu and Swede-based Charlie Davies came on for Altidore and McBride respectively midway through the second half, with Adu going close in the 82nd minute with a free-kick.
“I’m happy as we had many chances today,” said Cameroon coach Martin Ndtoungou Mpile. “I’m very confident in my players now as we now focus on the Olympics.”
US coach Peter Nowak was also upbeat after an improved performance from his side. “We were a little bit naïve tonight, but we created enough chances to win and we’re going to Tianjin in good spirits,” said the former Poland international. “I think anyone who plays us in the Olympics will have problems.”
McBride, who captained the side until his late substitution, also believes Team USA are heading in the right direction.
“We were better in the second half, a little more direct, and put some good pressure on them,” said the former Fulham striker. ”There were many positives, including our fitness and our communication, both of which are getting better.”
Cameroon 1:0 USA
Cote d'Ivoire 1:1 Netherlands