Making only their second appearance at a World Cup, ‘The Elephants’ have largely been pin-pointed as Africa’s strongest outfit. During the 2006 World Cup they were stuck in the ‘group of horrifying, excruciating death’ with Holland and Argentina, but luckily this time around…oh. Yup, Ivory Coast again find themselves in the ‘group of cadavers’, with Portugal and Brazil, meaning Africa’s highest hope – arguably alongside Ghana – will be up against it from the off.
Despite qualifying for the World Cup with relative ease, a poor Cup of Nations display saw coach Vahid Halilhodzic dismissed. Enter stage right, Sven-Goran Eriksson. Taking the role in March, Sven’s appointment, or more precisely his contract, attracted some controversy; a deal thought to be in the region of £2millon. Sven certainly hasn’t had long to asses the situation and assert himself upon the squad, however he is fortunately inheriting a side with a strong spine, having grown and developed together, thus the transition shouldn’t be overly problematic.
Indeed, this is thought to be a ‘golden generation’ possessing a plethora of European-based talent; including the likes of Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure, Saloman Kalou, Emmanuel Eboue and Didier Zakora.
If they are to progress, unity down this spine will be fundamental but two key men will undoubtedly need to perform; Drogba and Yaya Toure. Didier Drogba is clearly the figurehead; having one of the world’s best forwards leading the line never hurts and he has, very importantly, proven himself to be capable of recapturing his prolific club form on the international stage – with over 40 goals.
Whether Didier Drogba can prove and maintain his fitness will be of central concern to the Ivory Coast campaign, but Yaya Toure will also be vital in progressing to the knock-out stage. Strong, composed on the ball, tenacious in the tackle and imposing in stature, the Barcelona man is largely respected as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world.
It’s this nucleus which clearly forms the main muscle and potency for the Ivorians. In terms of weaknesses, the goalkeeper Boubacar Barry could probably be highlighted, in addition to Sol Bamba at centre-back. However, the greatest ‘weakness’ in terms of this tournament seems to be external, in relativity to both Brazil and Portugal; both of which will be fancied to progress. Of course you have to play and beat the best at some stage if you have real expectancy of success, but you’d still rather gather momentum slowly and face these sides later, hence maximising the chances of a successful tournament.
It’ll be very interesting to see how they fair. Avoiding defeat against Portugal in the opening fixture will clearly be significant, and if Sven can keep the backbone strong they undoubtedly have a chance. Whatever happens, it should be a fairly nice gig for Sven; pick up the money bags, inheriting a ‘golden generation’, the ‘group of death’ tag nullifying expectations a little, and without the need to nurture long-term development. Personally, I feel the bookies have got it right and I see them finishing third.
Ivory Coast: a tournament threat?
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