World Ranking: 27th
World Cup History: First Round (2006)
Manager: Sven Goran Eriksson
When talking about the Ivory Coast it’s hard not to lead off with Didier Drogba.
The Chelsea striker came into this tournament leading a stat studded Ivory Coast squad with hopes for glory and within a blink of an eye those dreams turned into a nightmare.
A week prior to the start of the tournament, in a friendly against Japan, Drogba was involved in a collision leaving him with a fractured elbow. Initially he was ruled out for the tournament but after a surgical procedure this week there is hope he may play.
Despite the possible loss there’s no shortage of talent on the African squad.
Up front the Ivorians have a plethora of young talent highlighted by the flamboyant Gervinho. The youngest player on the roster his creativity and fondness for flare make him exciting to watch, even landing him the nickname the “African Messi.”
While Barcelona star Yaya Toure will be heading the midfield the leading force of his older brother, Kolo Toure, will dictate their performance. The veteran defender and Manchester City captain has taken on a leadership role as most players have grown under his guidance. His impact on their psyche could be the difference in close games.
With nearly six world class strikers there is no surprise that the Cote d’Ivoire’s offensive power is their strong suit.
The massive depth up front could be problematic as Sven Goran Eriksson will find himself with a conundrum when choosing who to pair up with whom. Regardless, with the multiple players up to the challenge the Ivorians shouldn’t have a problem putting the ball in the back of net.
With so many star players on the team, talent won’t be to blame if things go wrong, chemistry and ego’s will.
Though the overall team camaraderie seems to be fine, the ultra competitive atmosphere brought to the table by these high level stars has proven to have an ill effect. There have been a number of fights throughout the qualifying campaign and if things are going south how will they carry themselves.
Going into the tournament the sky was the limit for the exciting African nation, but with the grim outlook of Drogba’s injury there has definitely been a fall in support.
After making their inaugural appearance in the World Cup in 2006 the next step for the Ivory Coast would be to move out of the group stages and into a possible quarter-finals matchup.
Having what is considered the most talented of the African nations, the Ivory Coast represented the sole contender for the host continent. But with such mental fragility already appearing how the team deals with the loss of their star player could very well hinge the outcome of their tournament.
Possessing great depth and skill will be a major advantage but also the experience and success of manager Sven Goran Eriksson could provide the team with the extra edge to survive a difficult draw.
Being grouped with Brazil and Portugal will mean a date to the round-of-16 will be hard-pressed to come by. However, with essentially home field advantage and a limitless talent pool the Ivorians could sneak by one of the power houses and move on.