There has been expectations on the African nations for the past two decades, but as yet they have yet to impress on the International stage. The furthest an African nation has got in a World Cup is the quarters, and it’s unlikely that is going to be a surpassed this summer. Ivory Coast have a very talented squad and have been the standout African nation for a number of years, but they are yet to achieve anything in competitions.
The Ivorian golden generation, including Didier Drogba and Kolo Toure, are coming towards the end of their careers, therefore this summer could be their last chance to really achieve something. They go in with lower expectations than before, given they are now known for disappointing at tournaments, similar to England in fact, but they still possess a lot of talent in their squad. The Ivory Coast have never got further than the group stage at the World Cup, a record they’ll be keen not to add to this summer.
The Ivory Coast have a very experienced side, which will play a bit part especially in tight games. Salomon Kalou, Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba have both lifted the Champions League, while their squad have multiple league medals across Europe, highlighting their quality. They also have a tight squad, who have played with each other for a very long time. The likes of both Toures, Drogba, Boubacar Barry, Siaka Tiene, Arthur Boka, Cheick Tiote, Kalou and Gervinho have a lot of international tournament experience and they will all want to do well this summer to make up for the disappointments from the past.
Their central midfield is very strong with Cheick Tiote and Yaya Toure certainties to start in the summer. They both possess great strength, power and athleticism, which will give them the opportunity to dominate matches. The former will be used to break up play and help the defence, while Toure will be given a free role to get up and down the pitch. Observers of the Premier League will know that the Manchester City midfielder is best used in an attacking role as he can be devastating in the final third.
They also possess a great deal of variety in their forward line. Obviously Didier Drogba remains their key player, as he stands only one cap away from 100, but he is ageing. The likes of Wilfried Bony and Lacina Traore offer a powerful presence like Drogba, with the former impressing in the Premier League this season. Salomon Kalou and Gervinho both offer pace and quality in the final third. They can be used as inside forwards, which we may see in the summer if they opt to field a 4-3-3.
Like all African countries, the Ivory Coast have lacked a top quality goalkeeper with Boubacar Barry and Sayouba Mande playing their football in Belgium and Norway respectively. In a tight game at the World Cup, a mistake could cost them and having poor goalkeepers will always prove to be a hindrance to a side. They also lack strength in depth, with a lot of the squad players only having a handful of matches to their name. If they suffer injuries before the tournament, then the African nation could really struggle to compete. Moreover, some of the experienced players like Drogba and Kolo Toure may struggle to compete at their highest level given the amount of games they would be asked to play.
Sabri Lamouchi is the man who will be leading the African nation out this summer in his first managerial post since retiring as a player. He was a French international in his playing days and he will be hoping he can take his experiences as a player into his managerial career. He will be upset that he missed out on France’s tournament successes in 1998 and 2000, and he will be keen to make up for that as a manager. Despite his inexperience on the managerial stage, he has shown he won’t be pushed around by the senior players after leaving star man Drogba on the bench occasionally.
The key man for the Elephants is beyond doubt Yaya Toure. He is considered by many as the best central midfielder in the world and he can show that this summer. His powerful runs from midfield will cause all sides trouble, while his clinical finishing from distance and in the penalty area make him a difficult player to defend against. Lamouchi should opt to give the Manchester City man freedom as he can play the more defensively minded Cheick Tiote behind him, which will take some of the defensive duties away from the former Barcelona player.
A lot of the matches this summer will be decided by the midfield and the strength and dynamism of Toure will give him the edge in many clashes in the centre of the park. At the age of 30, he will be desperate to have a strong international tournament to his name, especially given the disappointments that he has endured during his Ivory Coast career.
World Cup History
They have only been to a World Cup finals twice in their history and they failed to make it out of groups on both occasions.
It really is now or never for this Ivory Coast side with Drogba and both Toures moving towards the end of their international careers. They also have several talented players, who can make an impact this summer. Some of the younger players like Serge Aurier will be keen to secure a place in the side’s long term future, while the likes of Wilfried Bony, Seydou Doumbia and Lacina Traore will want to show that they are good enough to be Drogba’s long term replacement. Their draw of Colombia, Greece and Japan isn’t too difficult. All three will provide winnable games, unlike the groups that the Elephants have been drawn in during the last two World Cups. I expect them to qualify from their group along with Colombia.
Last 16: Outsiders