World Cup Team Profile - Ivory Coast
Coach: Sabri Lamouchi
Captain: Didier Drogba (Galatasaray)
Full Ivory Coast Roster
The Road to Rio: The Ivorians’ road out of group stage was comfortable to say the least. They went undefeated through six games, their 4-0-2 record blemished only by a pair of draws with Morocco.
They would concede just once in their four wins, getting 13 goals combined from the trio of Lille’s Salomon Kalou, Manchester City’s Yaya Toure and the always-dominant Didier Drogba.
In the playoff round the Elephants would catch bounces early and often against Senegal. An early careless tackle on Gervinho sent Drogba to the spot three minutes in. Just 10 minutes later Gervinho’s shot towards the net would ricochet off Ludovic Sane and in for an own-goal en route to a 3-1 home result. A late successful penalty from Moussa Sow would rile the Senegalese in their home leg, but a Kalou marker in stoppage would seal the deal and alleviate the pressure, sending Cote d’Ivoire to a third straight tournament.
Last World Cup appearance: 2010 South Africa (Group Stage)
First World Cup appearance: 2006 Germany (Group Stage)
Previous World Cup appearances: 2
Best World Cup finish: Group Stage (South Africa 2010)
The biggest difference between this third trip to the World Cup and the previous two for les Elephants? They're not in the Group of Death. Having drawn the Netherlands, Argentina and Serbia in Germany and then Brazil and Portugal in South Africa, Lamouchi's charges will be buoyed by a real belief that passage into the knockout round for the first time is a more than realistic goal.
For it to actually happen, though, les Elephants' significant strength - attack - must outweigh its significant weakness - defence.
To call the Cote d'Ivoire offence potent would be an understatement. Yaya Toure (Manchester City) stated his case for the title of best midfielder on the planet this season for the English champions. Chelsea legend Drogba is still one of European's greatest threats in the box. After cutting an anonymous figure at Arsenal, Gervinho rediscovered his swagger at Roma and Wilfried Bony showed glimpses of superb play at Swansea. There is talent enough here to punish even the most stalwart of defensive teams. If les Elephants can get in sync with the imperious Yaya marauding down the field and Drogba ready to finish, Ivory Coast will be a difficult proposition for the rest of Group C.
The issue, though, is at the other end of the pitch. While Cheick Tiote (Newcastle) is one of the better holding midfielders in England, behind him spells disaster. Les Elephants' back line is slow, aging and unimposing. So devoid of true quality at the back are les Elephants that Kolo Toure (Liverpool) was selected despite suffering from a bout of malaria. If Kolo doesn't start in the middle of the defence, look for a partnership of the nation's most-capped player Didier Zokora (most recently of Trazbonspor) and former Trazbonspor teammate Sol Bamba.
The Jekyll and Hyde aspect of les Elephants presents a high-risk, high-reward nature of the Ivory Coast. If the good can eclipse the bad in Brazil, the third time could be the charm for the Ivory Coast with a trip to the Round of 16 in Drogba's international swan song.