UEFA Europa League
Previous
Astana 1964
Villarreal
3:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Aktobe Lento
Legia Warsaw
3:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Dinamo Moscow
Omonia Nicosia
3:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Ruch Chorzow
Metalist Kharkiv
4:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
HJK Helsinki
Rapid Vienna
4:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
FK Qarabag
Twente Enschede
4:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
AEL
Tottenham Hotspur
4:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
PSV Eindhoven
Shakhter Soligorsk
4:45 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Karabükspor
St Etienne
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Elfsborg
Rio Ave
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Dinamo Minsk
CD Nacional de Madeira
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Petrolul Ploiesti
Dinamo Zagreb
5:15 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
BSC Young Boys
Debrecen
5:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Apollon Limassol
Lokomotiv Moscow
5:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
FC Zorya Luhansk
Feyenoord Rotterdam
5:45 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Trabzonspor
Rostov
6:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Panathinaikos
FC Midtjylland
6:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
PEC Zwolle
Sparta Prague
6:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Zimbru Chisinau
PAOK Salonika
6:05 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
FC Spartak Trnava
FC Zürich
6:15 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
FK Partizan Belgrade
Neftchi Baku PFC
6:15 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Grasshoppers Zürich
Club Brugge
6:15 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Asteras Tripolis
Maccabi Tel-Aviv
6:15 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Real Sociedad
Krasnodar
6:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
RNK Split
Torino
6:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Lyon
FK Astra Giurgiu
6:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
KSC Lokeren
Hull City
6:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
FK Sarajevo
Borussia Monchengladbach
6:45 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Rijeka
Sheriff Tiraspol
7:15 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Sassuolo
Cittadella
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Real Espana
Municipal
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Belmopan Bandits
Metapan
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Inti Gas Deportes
Caracas F.C.
6:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Deportivo Capiatá
Danubio F.C.
8:15 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Barcelona
Alianza Lima
10:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Trujillanos
Independiente del Valle
10:30 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Millonarios
César Vallejo
12:50 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Universidad Católica
River Plate
12:50 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Corinthians
Goiás EC
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Cruzeiro
Gremio
ESPN3 11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Next

Group stage worst XI

World Cup Jun 27, 2014
Read

Best XI of the group stage

World Cup Jun 27, 2014
Read

Pekerman showing coaching savvy

Colombia Jun 19, 2014
Read
 Posted by Sam Crocker
Jun 16, 2014

Gervinho vital to knockout-stage hopes

Gervinho scored the go-ahead goal and the Ivory Coast completed a two-goal comeback to defeat Japan 2-1.

In some ways, it seems a bit bizarre to even discuss the idea of confidence with regards to footballers. With seemingly the world at their feet and doing what they love, playing at a level that one in a hundred try and fail to reach, a player's self-assurance seems a given.

But contrary to popular belief, football players are actually human. While the uninitiated might think they are little more than commodities, bought and sold based upon their usefulness to their owner, their feelings are as real as any other person on this planet.

Gervinho is one player who knows this all too well. His confidence in many ways is his defining characteristic, affecting his performance perhaps more than any other player in the game today.

No two games better put this into context than the semifinal and final of the 2012 African Cup of Nations.

Seconds before halftime in the semifinal against Mali, Gervinho received the ball just inside his own half. He anticipated Ousmane Berthe approaching from behind at speed, and used his first touch to slide it straight through the Malian's legs. Eight second later, the ball was in the net.

- Crocker: Aurier the real deal
- Lamouchi warns against complacency

His solo effort occurred over the space of 50 metres and used just four touches before the fifth slotted the ball into the far corner from a narrow angle. This would be the goal that sent Ivory Coast through to the final.

Four days later, and Gervinho found himself watching his teammates' attempts to claim the silverware their combined talent deserved. Eighth in line for spot kicks, and with the previous seven successful penalties for both teams making it 7-7, it was Gervinho's turn to step up. But he didn't.

A sudden crisis of confidence meant that an unprepared Kolo Toure was forced to take the eighth penalty instead, and the resulting miss gave Zambia the advantage. Rainford Kalaba's ensuing miss gave Gervinho the opportunity to make amends. After a pep talk from captain Didier Drogba, the then-Arsenal man side-footed his penalty high and wide. Stoppila Sunzu then scored the penalty that would crown Zambia as champions of Africa.

It is hard to identify the cause of this stark contrast. It could be argued that the nature which he moves with the ball can be to his detriment at times. Scatty and impulsive, his lack of technical ability makes him puzzling to watch, as if reactive signals are relayed between his mind and his feet rather than working in concert to execute a choreographed movement.

Gervinho scored the Ivory Coast's winner against Japan.
Gervinho scored the Ivory Coast's winner against Japan.

When confident and in control, Gervinho is spellbinding. Self-doubting and out of control, he is ineffective and eye-gougingly frustrating to watch.

Luckily for fans of Les Elephants, Gervinho's performances for his country tend to lean more towards that semifinal showing against Mali than the self-destruction witnessed in the final against Zambia. And if pre-tournament friendlies are anything to go by, he has truly translated his Roma form -- a phoenix-like rise from his days at the Emirates -- to the national side.

Wingers are key to the Ivory Coast's game plan, offering pace and movement that can overwhelm the opposition. Those duties coupled with collaborating with Drogba, Yaya Toure, Salomon Kalou and Wilfried Bony mean that Gervinho will act as both provider of and recipient to the creativity that infuses his team.

Getting on the score sheet with a rare header, he didn't quite reach top gear in the 2-1 victory over Japan, but he looked like he wasn't far from his best.

It is not an over-exaggeration to say that, on his day, he is unplayable. His loose dribbling style may be his worst enemy at times, but its total unpredictability also means that, when he is able keep his cool, he has every chance to skip past defenders and bend a match to his will.

Sam Crocker

Sam Crocker has been interested in African football since completing his undergraduate dissertation on the African Nations Cup. After becoming an editorial assistant at Sandals for Goalposts, he has since done writing for The Telegraph and Four Four Two, as well as more general football writing for Squawka. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sam_Crock

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.