Brazil triumphed in Pele era, Argentina glittered by Maradona, France shined with Zinadin Zidane, England won the cup with its star in 1966 but a team having a player of the caliber of Didier Drogba, the elephants with a golden generation could not reach any height. Star Studded Ivory Coast (Cote d’voire) is yet to prove their potential at the FIFA world cup, having been let to leave unsung from the group stage twice before. They have some world class player and have the potential to advance to business round. Will it be third time lucky for them?
In 2006, they were made to fade out by fancied teams Argentina and Netherlands which spelled the end of their debut tournament. In 2010 they were pooled alongside the two favorites in the form of Brazil and Portugal, who ultimately progressed from a group also including North Korea. This time Ivory Coast appear to be far better positioned and more comfortable, placed in Group C alongside Colombia, Greece and Japan, a trio who pose much less of a threat than in their two previous world cup groups. Arguably aside from Colombia, who with the presence of Radamel Falcao will be seen as a dark horse, there is nobody who Ivory Coast should find particularly dangerous, and they should be confident that they can make it third time lucky in progressing through to the knockout stages.
The star studded Ivory Coast is led by one of the most talented football players of modern time Didier Drogba. The team also includes high flying Yaya Toure and Salomon Kalow, the evergreen and most capped player Didier Zakora, the towering Lacine Traore and the impossible to miss Gerinho. With such a kind of glittering talents Ivory Coast could not product anything spectacular in the last two opportunities. 2014 will be the last opportunity for Ivory coast with its golden generation to redeem.
This time also they are grouped with a South American and an European side but Greece and Columbia are not of the same class as Argentina, Brazil, Portugal and the Netherlands. Japan in Brazil most probably will not create a great challenge. Ivory Coast should move to group of sixteen.
Goalkeepers: Boubacar Barry (Lokeren), Sylvain Gbohouo (Sewe Sport), Ali Sangare Badra (Asec Mimosas), Sayouba Sande (Stabaek).
Defenders: Kolo Toure (Liverpool), Sol Bamba (Trabzonspor), Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor), Serge Aurier (Toulouse), Arthur Boka (Stuttgart), Benjamin Angoua (Valenciennes), Ousmane Viera Diarrassouba (Caykur Rizespor), Constant Djakpa (Frankfurt), Brice Dja Djedje (Marseille), Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro (Toulouse).
Midfielders: Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Cheik Tiote (Newcastle), Serey Die (Basel), Max Gradel (Saint Etienne), Diomande Ismael (Saint Etienne), Didier Ya Konan (Hannover), Mathis Bolly (Dusseldorf).
Forwards: Gervinho (Roma), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray), Salomon Kalou (Lille), Wilfried Bony (Swansea), Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow), Lacina Traore (Everton), Giovanni Sio (Basel).
Coach Sabri Lamouchi
42-year old Sabri Lamouchi enjoyed somewhat of an illustrious playing career, turning out for the likes of Monaco, Parma, Inter Milan and the France national team. Lamouchi was part of France’s 28-man preliminary squad for the 1998 world cup finals, but didn't make the final cut. After retiring from playing in 2009, Lamouchi landed his first job in management in 2012, and has since guided Ivory Coast to the 2014 world cup finals. For a highly inexperienced manager, Brazil 2014 will represent a serious challenge for him and his team.
Players to Watch
It is always a shame when the public don’t get to watch players of Didier Drogba’s quality perform at a world cup. Ivory Coast’s poor showing in the previous two editions means people haven’t seen Drogba at his best in the finals, but having been handed a relatively straight forward group this time round, it is expected that Drogba will be around for longer. One of the strongest, most aggressive strikers in the game, Drogba is a joy to watch when at his brutal best, brushing off defenders, powering his way through tackles and finding the net with aplomb.
Yaya Toure together with older brother and Liverpool centre back Kolo provides the back bone that Ivory Coast relies upon. The steely 31 years old had wonderful time in Belgium, Ukraine, Greece and France before settling in FC Barcelona where he starred in the all-conquering 2009 side. A transfer to Manchester City in 2010 builds his reputation as one of the world’s premier box-to-box midfielders. He won three consecutive African Footballer of the year award (2010-2013).
The 203cm striker Lacino Traore is the giraffe upfront Les Elephants. He made a name for himself in Romania and Russia before joining Monaco in January 2014 on a four and a half year contract. He was then loaned to Everton. He will form a formidable striking partnership with Kalou, Gervinho and Drogba.
Sunday, June 15, 2014 v Japan (02:00 GMT in Arena Pernambuco, Recife)
Thursday, June 19, 2014 v Colombia (17:00 GMT in Estadio Nacional, Brasilia)
Tuesday, June 24, 2014 v Greece (21:00 GMT in Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza)
Ivory Coast have avoided a group of death this time but their second round fate will most probably land them at the doorstep of one of Uruguay, Italy or England. With Italy likely to top group D, and one of Uruguay and England to come second, Ivory Coast would dearly love to beat Colombia to top spot in Group C. Whatever the case, they will face a mightily difficult second round tie, which may spell the end of their tournament, unless Drogba can help to muscle his side through to the quarter-finals and beyond. A difficult second round encounter will likely spell the end for Ivory Coast, however.
The French coach expressed his fears about the form of the team’s most influential player, Yaya Toure, as well as Drogba, following injury concerns, but assured he would let both men have enough rest before the tournament kicks off.
In group C alongside Colombia and Greece, Cote d'Ivoire will open their campaign against Japan, the fourth member of the group, which Lamouchi said would be their most difficult game as opposed to Colombia, considered top favorites of the lot.
BDST: 0959 HRS, JUN 01, 2014