Michel Dussuyer says his side underperformed in Monday night's 0-0 draw against Togo in Group C of the Africa Cup of Nations. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Oyem, Gabon - Ivory Coast coach Michel Dussuyer has lamented the Elephants’s poor start to the defence of their Africa Cup of Nations title after they were held goalless by Togo in their Group C opener in Oyem, Gabon on Monday.

“It is not the start we would have liked,” he said in the post-match conference before immediately saying he was not surprised. “We were warned (outsiders Zimbabwe holding Algeria on Sunday), but could not raise our level of play to do better.”

But the man who replaced fellow Frenchman Herve Renard, whose Morocco were beaten 1-0 by the Democratic Republic of Congo also on Monday, was not too perturbed.

“There are still two matches left. We expect more from ourselves. We did not manage to put intensity into our game. We played at 5pm local time and it was very hot. We did not know how to destabilise Togo. In the end, it was a pale copy of what we can do. We are all aware of it, me more so than anyone.”

There weren't a lot of scoring chances although Paris Saint-Germain defender Serge Aurier headed inches wide with just two minutes of play remaining.

Expectedly, Togo coach Claude le Roy gleefully accepted the point which could go a long way towards him leading a team to the knockout stages for the eighth time in nine tournaments.

“I feel we had a good match, hats off to my players. We qualified (for this Cup of Nations) at the last second in a country where there has not been a championship for the past three years,” he said, adding he’d expected a tough time for his side. “I feared this Ivory Coast team. We were at times close to scoring, which would have been marvellous.”

Despite their line-up boasting two English Premier League players in Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha and Manchester United defender Eric Bailly, the Elephants just couldn’t sparkle.

It was an uneventful competitive debut for Abidjan-born Zaha who switched international allegiance after two friendly appearances for his adopted country England.

The former United player didn’t finish the match as he made way for Stoke City’s Wilfried Bony whose introduction did very little to set fire on a match that hardly kept the paltry crowd in the 20 000-seater arena.

But the Elephants did get a good chance just 10 minutes into the match but Jonathan Kodjia of English second-tier outfit Aston Villa, fell just as he was about to shoot and Togo’s Kossi Agassa blocked the loose ball.

Togo, captained by clubless Emanuel Adebayor, had an opportunity to break the deadlock just before the half-hour mark when a cross from the left wing found the Ivorian defence wanting.

But goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo spotted the potential danger and darted off his goalline to parry a low shot from veteran midfielder Matthieu Dossevi.

Togo then had a half chance on 78 minutes as Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba evaded his marker in the goalmouth, but his header flew over.

The result maintained a trend of stalemates in the 2017 tournament, which kicked off on Saturday, with four of the first five matches failing to produce a winner.

Cafonline-Reuters