Gervinho, Jebor Hold the Keys
By Wleh Bedell
The epic clash between the Lone Star of Liberia and the Elephants of the Ivory Coast on Friday, November 13, 2015, brings to the limelight two danger men on both sides at the Antoinette Tubman stadium.
The 28 year old Gervais Yao Kouassi, alias Gervinho, with 71 international caps and 20 goals is expected to lead the Elephants for the duel. Currently the fifth top scorer in the Italian Serie A with six goals, Gervinho has scored 22% of his club AS Roma goals this season and is also the fifth best player in the Serie A so far this season with a rating of 7.58 according to the World's leading statistical website, whoscored. The winger who was once described by current Chelsea forward Eden Hazard as the best dribbler he had ever played with during their days in the French Ligue 1 with Lille, was in 2014 described by Rome based newspaper, Romanti as "Africa's Messi". In one of its quotes it noted "Africa now has its Messi" after a classic display against Inter Milan.
According to whoscored, Gervinho's strengths are finishing and dribbling. He likes to play short passes, likes to dribble and does not dive into tackles.
Of course he has his weakness which includes holding a lot onto the ball, aerial duels and defensive work.
The hair braided winger will be the man to lead the lines for the African champions in the absence of the 32 year old influential play maker Yaya Toure who is still reflecting on the time to get his century of caps.
"Gervinho is at his best when he has confidence", noted then fellow international teammate Didier Zakora when the Ivory Coast dumped Senegal in the 2014 World Cup play-offs where the player was rampant.
Against the Lone Star, he will charge the wings, switch flanks to engage fullbacks Solomon Grimes and Adolphus Marshall as he look to unlock the Lone Star defense in teeing up teammates and going for goal as well.
Gervinho might be a key man for the Elephants, but the Lone Star has its own talisman in William Jebor. The 24 year old, five caps, five goals international who is on loan from Portuguese elite side Rio Ave to Spanish second tier side Ponferradina, netted a hat-trick in his last game for country on October 13, 2015 when the Lone Star demolished Guinea Bissau's Wild Dogs in a 2018 World Cup preliminary.
With six matches for club so far this season where he has started just two, the bullish Jebor is still in search of his first goal for club as he has so far clocked 195 minutes of play. Not the technically gifted of strikers, the player is however endowed with power and finishing and is no player to speculate in the final third.
Jebor who became the first Liberian footballer after George Weah to play in a UEFA competition in just his first season in Europe, has had a meteoric rise and was once top scorer in the Egyptian top flight during his spell with the Army club El-Gais before the league was cancelled that season due to the crisis there.
Like any striker, Jebor only craves for service where his quick movement round or in the box, aggression, power and finishing are used to menacing effect. He can jink wide, go deep at times, and is strong in the aerial duels and can also link up with playmates.. Elephants 23 year old six capped defender cum midfielder, Jean Daniel Akpa Akpro of French outfit Toulouse, and Turkish club Rizespor, 28 year old, ten capped rearguard, Ousmane Viera will have a huge task in containing the ominous front runner who is in red vein of form to cause damage to Africa's number one ranked team.
Since making his debut for the senior national team in a 4-2 loss away to the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde in a 2012 African Nations Cup qualifier on March 26, 2011, (the only match he failed to score for country), Jebor has gone onto score five goals and now has the enviable record of the best goal per game ratio of any Liberian footballer ever as he has netted five goals in five games with four coming against Guinea Bissau in a two-legged tie and the other against the Sparrow Hawks of Togo.
So, if the Elephants have Gervinho, Liberia have their Didier Drogba-like player, with power, aggression and jaw dropping finishing. William Jebor. Bring it on.....