WORLD CUP PREVIEW: Ivory Coast

WORLD CUP PREVIEW: Ivory Coast

COACH – Sabri Lamouchi
BEST SHOWING – Group Stage 2006, 2010
QUALIFICATION – Defeated Senegal in the CAF Playoffs.
TOURNAMENT ODDS – 150/1
FIXTURES
June 15th – Japan (0200 BST, Recife, ITV)
June 19th – Colombia (1700 BST, Brasilia, BBC)
June 24th – Greece (2100 BST, Fortaleza, BBC)

Button Colombia Button Greece Button Japan

 

For the last few years The Elephants have been regarded as Africa’s strongest nation but for whatever reason when it comes to tournament time the Ivory Coast don’t produce the goods. The World Cup argument is that in both 2006 and 2010 they had tough groups but, with things slightly easier this time around, that excuse won’t wash.

Recent results have been indifferent but a 2-2 draw in Belgium where the Ivory Coast fought back from 2-0 down offers them hope for the tournament – hope that the Ivory Coast can finally make an impact on the World Cup.

Lamouchi has little in the terms of coaching experience but he does have the respect and belief of his players. He’ll line his men up in a 4-3-3 with Boubacar Barry between the sticks. An African stereotype is the lack of quality keepers and unfortunately Barry lives up to that; despite his vast international experience he’s not a reassuring last line of defence.

What the Ivory Coast look to do is use trickery and their full backs, who look to either cut it back as Yaya Toure makes a surging run or whip it in for Drogba to win an aerial battle.

The defence itself doesn’t look that sturdy with Didier Zokora and Sol Bamba the likely centre-back pairing with the error prone Kolo Toure also in the squad. Arthur Boka is left back although he’s far better going forward than he is defensively and the talented Toulouse right back Serge Aurier should start as well.

The Ivorian strength lies in their midfield and attack – Yaya Toure is coming off a scintillating season in the Premier League and he’ll be supported by Cheick Tiote.

Up front Didier Drogba may be 36 but he’s still a handful for any defender, Gervinho has revitalised his career at AS Roma after a poor stint at Arsenal whilst Wilfried Bony and Lacina Traore are also more than capable of grabbing goals.

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ONE TO WATCH

05 WORLD CUP TOUREThe former Mimosas youth team player has been around Europe having spells in Belgium, Ukraine, Greece, France and Spain before moving to Manchester City.

He’s versatile and is capable of playing centre-back and as a defensive midfielder. Manchester City have utilised him in a more advanced role than he played for Barca but for his country I expect him to be a classic box to box midfielder – bombing forward when needed and also helping out the shaky Elephants defence.

His strength, poise and skill will be vital if the Ivorians want to control midfield battles and he will also look to bring Gervinho into play. Just don’t forget his birthday…

HERE COMES D-JUDGE
D-Judge

The Ivory Coast have produced a number of classy footballers and this is their best chance to advance – for the likes of Didier Drogba it’s also their last chance.

An experienced core with an inexperienced coach, not much has changed about the way the Elephants play their football and they can also physically impose themselves on games.

The main problem is the goalkeeper and defence cannot be relied upon to keep clean sheets. They will be heavily reliant on the attack to cover for the defensive deficiencies, an approach that won’t really work at this level.

If Yaya, Drogba, Gervinho and company fire on all cylinders, they can make an impact on this tournament and excite one or two.

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VERDICT

They need their attackers to produce their best to cover their weaknesses. At best they’ll make it to the last 16 but I predict a group stage exit.

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Danny Drogba (D-Good)
Owls Alive
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