(Over the next month or so, we’re going to be doing previews for all 32 teams participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Yes, all 32 teams. We’ll make you laugh, cry, get mad and perhaps question why you read us in the first place. We hope you enjoy the product nonetheless)
To put it blunt, the Ivory Coast have been very unlucky in the last two World Cups, being drawn in very tough groups in 2006 and 2010. 2006 saw them drawn with the Netherlands and Argentina while in 2010 they were with Brazil and Portugal. This year has seen the Ivory Coast get a much favorable draw with Greece, Japan and Colombia, who are missing their best striker in Falcao. Greece have been an international no show since Euro 2004. Japan have been a run of the mill tournament producer, making the round of 16 in two of the last three World Cups while Columbia are making their first appearance since 1998.
This iteration for the Ivory Coast see the last dance with a generation that brought us two world class players in Drogba and Yaya Toure and one of the great car salesman in recent memory, with Sabri Lamouch injecting youth with the likes of the very talented Serge Aurier, Ismael Diomande, Wilfred Bony from Swansea in the English Premier League while having the luxury of integrating very talented in prime players.
Goalkeepers: Boubacar Barry (Lokeren/BEL), Sayouba Mande (Stabaek/NOR), Sylvain Gbohouo (Sewe San Pedro/CIV), Ali Badra Sangare (ASEC Mimosas/CIV)
Defenders: Kolo Toure (Liverpool/ENG), Arthur Boka (Stuttgart/GER), Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro (Toulouse/FRA), Serge Aurier (Toulouse/FRA), Ousmane Viera Diarrassouba (Caykur Rizespor/TUR), Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor/TUR), Constant Djakpa (Frankfurt/GER), Brice Dja Djedje (Marseille/FRA), Benjamin Angoua Brou (Valenciennes/FRA), Bamba Souleymane (Trabzonspor/TUR)
Midfielders: Ismael Diomande (St Etienne/FRA), Max Gradel (St Etienne/FRA), Yaya Toure (Manchester City/ENG), Ismael Cheick Tiote (Newcastle/ENG), Geoffroy Serey Die (Basel/SUI), Didier Ya Konan (Hanover/GER)
Forwards: Didier Drogba (Galatasaray/TUR), Gervinho (Roma/ITA), Salomon Kalou (Lille/FRA), Wilfried Bony (Swansea/ENG), Giovanni Sio (Basel/SUI), Mathis Bolly (Duesseldorf/GER), Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow/RUS), Lacina Traore (Everton/ENG)
It’s been known that this will be the last world cup that Didier Drogba will participate in with the Ivory Coast. A Chelsea legend, one of the great goal scorers of his generation. A man who brought the Champions League to London for the first time ever with his winning penalty vs Bayern Munich. He’s won 4 FA Cups, 3 EPL titles, a CL title while getting to the final in 2008 (he got a red card in that final for this…). He was just that good for Chelsea in his prime, and he’s been a goal scoring machine for his home country, scoring at a 0.63 Goals per Game mark internationally even with the lack of international success in cup competitions. He came off the bench and helped the Ivory Coast recover from a 2-0 deficit vs Belgium and scored the first of two goals. The World Cup has brought us many instances of past their prime megastars turning in sage performances when the moment arises, and Drogba could lift his nation to new heights with one in Brazil.
It just won’t be him though, there’s the Toure brothers in Yaya and Kolo, Didier Zokora and Salomon Kalou who are perhaps playing their last world cup. Kolo Toure was an outright disaster for Liverpool, someone who managed to top himself game after game in terms of ineptitude. I can personally say that watching Kolo “defend” as a Liverpool supporters took years out of my life expectancy. Kalou since his move away from Chelsea has had a couple of very good years in Ligue 1 while Zokora is wrapping up his career in Turkey.
Yaya in comparison to his brother had the complete antithesis of a season for Manchester City, with a domestic double with the EPL title and the League Cup. When healthy, he was absolutely sublime, the second best player in the EPL. He combined with Fernandinho to make the most imposing midfield duo in England, with Fernandinho allowing Toure to do what Yaya does best, which is inflict damage on poor teams that dare challenge his wrath. He’s the modern day box to box midfielder, along the likes of what Arturo Vidal is for Chile and his domestic club Juventus. He’s indisputably Cote d’Ivoire’s best midfielder and most impactful player in general, and his precision passing will be key in getting Kalou/Gervinho/Doumbia/Drogba open avenues up front.
Going past the likes of the Toure brothers and Drogba is a very talented mid-career/young core of players, with Gervinho, Doumbia, Bony, Aurier, and Dja Djédjé to name a few. Arsenal fans will remember Gervinho from his time in the Premier League. His hilarious hairline and his nagging injuries in the EPL allowed for the change of scenery for Gervinho that revived his career in Roma. He was second in goals on the team with nine, tied for assists with ten and perhaps most shocking of all is Gervinho made 33 total appearance in the Serie A this season. Doumbia was dominant with CSKA Moscow in the Russian Premier League while Bony almost singlehandedly kept Swansea from relegation with his 16 league goals. One player to look out for in the future is Serge Aurier from Toulouse FC. A multidimensional defender who’s also been played in the midfield during the season with an eye for speed and creativity.
For a team that is handing the keys over to midcareer players and young defenders while giving their sage veterans one last World Cup opportunity to glory, Cote D’Ivoire couldn’t have asked for a better draw. They’re the favorites in Group C with Falcao’s injury and they have an abundance of talent at various stages of career arcs. Plus if Cote D’Ivoire finish 1st they’ll play the second place team from Group D which could be any of Uruguay/Italy/England, teams that the Ivory Coast should easily match up with evenly. Africa currently hasn’t had a team progress to the semi-finals of the World Cup despite coming painstakingly close with Ghana in 2010 and Cameroon in 1990. It’s be quite the sending off of the Ivory Coast’s golden generation to be the first team to do so, and with the abundance of talent that they possess combine with the world class ability that Yaya Toure possesses, Cote D’Ivoire may just be crazy enough to pull it off.