FIFA World Cup Prospectus: Ivory Coast
Football.com will countdown the remaining time leading up to the World Cup with a 32-day preview of each team that will be participating. For those of you who want to know each team inside and out, the 32-Day 2014 FIFA World Cup Prospectus is the World Cup preview.
Group C: Japan
Group E: Switzerland, France
Group F: Bosnia-Herzegovina
Group G: United States
Nickname: Enfant Terrible
Previous World Cups: 2006, 2010
FIFA Ranking: 21
How Did They Get Here?
After easily disposing their CAF qualifying group in the second round, Ivory Coast beat Senegal 4-2 via aggregate in the playoff.
Opponents (Match Date): Japan (6/14), Columbia (6/19), Greece (6/24)
Finish in Group: First
Why finish in First?
Ever since Radamel Falcao stepped down from the World Cup squad for Columbia due to injury, his country never looked like the threat they were. Without Falcao, Columbia has struggled to find the net at a consistent basis and never seemed to win with a solid game plan. Everything has gone down the toilet for the Columbians. Ivory Coast now sees an open opportunity to take first place as long as no injury occurs to their key players like Didier Drogba or Yaya Toure (Knock on wood). They boast two of the most dangerous players in the world and have a rising star at fullback who can take the team to the next level. Moreover, after falling short in 2006 and 2010 due to unfortunate circumstances (Groups of Death), Ivory Coast will enter this tournament hungry to break out of the slump and advance to the round of 16 for the first time.
Grading each position:
Boubacar Barry of Belgian Pro League’s Lokoren will be starting between the posts for the third consecutive World Cup. The 34-year-old may be past his prime, but his experience and ability to read the game will carry his squad defensively. Moreover, his reflexes aren’t quite gone yet, but they have definitely slowed down since 2010. Still, Barry has a lot to offer for the team and will look to do a decent job…just not a great one.
Enfant Terrible will turn to the veteran duo of Didier Zokora and Kolo Toure to anchor the backline once again. While this would not have been a bad idea back in 2010, the fact that the best possible center backs for the team are 33-years-old is quite worrisome. Kolo Toure has faded from Liverpool’s starting 11 this past season while Zokora was hanging around in the Turkish Süper Lig, a sign that he’s at the end of his career. Arthur Boka and Constant Djakpa are still battling for the left-back position, but from the looks of it, Djakpa holds the advantage after several friendlies. The gem in the backline though is Serge Aurier at right-back. At 21-years-old, Aurier has proven to be one of the best right-backs in the Ligue 1 at Toulouse and is primed for a move to a major European club this summer.
Although cohesion shouldn’t be a problem for this backline, speed and reaction will be key for this backline to hold up against speedy opponents like Japan and Columbia.
Yaya Toure is probably wishing his midfield corps at least featured someone who was as creative as David Silva or Fernandinho. Cheick Tiote and Serey Die will screen the backline and Yaya Toure will take the central attacking midfield role. Gervinho and Salomon Kalou will be deployed at the wings, using their speed and athleticism to draw out defenders and give Yaya Toure space to operate. With cohesiveness starting to show, this team could be one of the most underrated midfield coming into the tournament.
Didier Drogba has hardly slowed down despite being 36-years-old. The Galatasaray striker is still an efficient contributor and may have outshone Samuel Eto’o as the best African striker for the last 10 years. Although Wilfred Bony hasn’t stuck out on the international level, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he scored 16 goals for Swansea City in the EPL this past year and 25 goals total. He’s a very valuable insurance to have off the bench in case Drogba gets hurt. This unit should be able to get the job done.
Not much is known about Sabri Lamouchi except for the fact that he has no experience in managing a team until he took the Ivory Coast job in 2012. However, he has succeeded in doing what no other manager has ever done before; make Ivory Coast play good team football. He deserves some credit for that.
How can they win the World Cup?
Assuming they get out of the group stages at ease, Ivory Coast must shore up that defense like no other. While the team’s offensive scheme might be a tad bit predictable with Yaya Toure dominating the ball, it doesn’t hurt to say that opposing teams might not be able to stop Yaya Toure regardless of whether they can read his strategy because he’s just a freakish athlete. If they can scrape out those 1-0 victories and park that defense, they may have a chance of winning it all.
What can go wrong?
Japan and Columbia’s speed can expose the lackluster Ivory Coast defense and send them packing early for the third time in a row.
What’s There to like about Ivory Coast?
People from Côte d’Ivoire don’t like it if you call their country “Ivory Coast.” After learning this, I had to make sure I didn’t write “Ivory Coast” in this preview and change any mention of “Ivory Coast” to “Côte d’Ivoire” for the sake of not pissing off people from there. (Editor’s Note: AP Style says otherwise. Direct all your angry comments to me)
One of the most popular dishes is the L’attieke, grated yams served with grilled fish, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. In terms of fresh produce, Ivory Coast has one of the best avocados in all of Africa. Another specialty you can enjoy in this country is shougouilla, an assortment of charbroiled meat. Lastly, alloco, or fried plantains with chili peppers and onions on the side, is one of the most popular snacks from this country.
Puma didn’t do anything drastic to the Ivory Coast jersey, keeping the monochrome green for the home kit and all orange for the away kit. The notable addition to the jerseys is the kente pattern on the shoulder area.