World Cup 2010 – Countdown: Sven’s Ivory Coast

We continue our World Cup countdown with a look at Sven-Goran Eriksson’s wildcards Ivory Coast.

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IVORY COAST

World Cup record:

Previous appearances in finals: One

Best performance: Group stages in 2006

Coach: Sven-Goran Eriksson took over the reigns with his team already qualified for the World Cup. Vastly experienced at club level, most notably with Lazio but also with Benfica, Roma, Sampdoria and Manchester City, the Swede has also managed twice at international level – with England and Mexico. Svennis is a big-name and has already boosted the image and ego of Ivorian football but just what he can achieve with less than a month of preparation remains to be seen.i

Key players:

Didier Drogba (Chelsea) Age: 32. Position: Striker. With 40 goals in 60 international appearances, Drogba has proven vital for his country. He took them to the final of the 2006 African Nations Cup and now two World Cup tournaments, although he missed half of the 2010 qualifiers through injury. At club level, he has won both league and cup honours in England with Chelsea, who signed him from Olympique Marseille.

Salomon Kalou (Chelsea) Age: 24. Position: Striker. As an exciting teenage talent with Feyenoord, Kalou was the subject of a lengthy, but ultimately unsuccessful, bid to win Dutch nationality before the 2006 World Cup. Eventually debuted for the Ivorians, where elder brother Bonaventure had previously been captain.

Yaya Toure (Barcelona) Age: 26. Position: Midfield. A massive physical presence in the centre of midfield, Toure has taken a circuitous route through clubs in five different countries before signing for European champions Barcelona two years ago.

FIFA world ranking May 2010: 27th

How they qualified: The Ivorians finished qualification without defeat, going through 12 matches in two group phases and progressing comfortably. The death of at least 19 people in a stampede at their home stadium in Abidjan in March ahead of a qualifier cast a dark shadow over their campaign.

Prospects: They are arguably the strongest of the African teams and will carry the hopes of an expectant continent, but rely too much on Drogba for inspiration. There are also several weaknesses in key positions, which could cost them but with a few lucky breaks, the Elephants could well become the first African side to advance past the last eight at a World Cup.

Expert view: “Drogba is a very good striker. Powerful, fast, opportunistic, he is an important asset in the team. But you do not win games with one player, even if he sometimes seems that way. If the Ivory Coast was dependent on a single player, they would never have qualified for the World Cup.” Jean-Marc Guillou, who was beaten to the coach’s job by Eriksson.

Bookmakers’ odds: 40-1

Squad: (29): Goalkeepers: Vincent Angban (ASEC Abidjan), Boubacar Barry (Lokeren), Aristides Zogbo (Maccabi Netanya), Daniel Yeboah (ASEC Abidjan); Defenders: Souleymane Bamba (Hibernian), Arthur Boka (VfB Stuttgart), Benjamin Brou Angoua (Valenciennes), Guy Demel (Hamburg SV), Emmanuel Eboue (Arsenal), Abdoulaye Meite (West Bromwich Albion), Steve Gohouri (Wigan Athletic), Siaka Tiene (Valenciennes), Kolo Toure (Manchester City); Midfielders: Emerse Fae (Nantes), Jean-Jacques Gosso Gosso (Monaco), Abdelkader Keita (Galatasaray), Emmanuel Kone (International Curtea Arges), Gervais Yao Kouassi (Lille), Christian Koffi Ndri (Sevilla), Cheik Ismael Tiote (Twente Enschede), Yaya Toure (Barcelona), Gilles Yapi Yapo (Young Boys Berne), Didier Zokora (Sevilla); Forwards: Kanga Akale (Racing Lens), Aruna Dindane (Racing Lens), Seydou Doumbia (Young Boys Berne), Didier Drogba (Chelsea), Salomon Kalou (Chelsea), Bakary Kone (Marseille).

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