Nickname: Les Elefants (The Elephants)
FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking: 27
Cote d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast) is making their second consecutive World Cup appearance, and for the second time they have been placed in what some have called the “group of death.” This year Cote d’Ivoire has been matched up with Brazil (ranked 1st), Portugal (ranked 3rd) and North Korea (ranked 105th) in Group G. The Elephants have the talent to come out of this group, it’s just whether they can play up to that level. The key match will be the meeting with Portugal on June 15 in Port Elizabeth.
Cote d’Ivoire had a great qualification campaign, not losing a single game and seemingly getting better as they went along. The hopes of Ivorians and all Africans continued to grow as this team kept improving. Many began predicting that the Elephants could win it all, especially since this is going to be an African World Cup. They began to refer to them as the hope for the entire continent. However, after a disappointing outing in the Africa Cup of Nations, where Cote d’Ivoire was unexpectedly beaten by Algeria in the quarterfinals, those hopes were dashed.
Angry and disappointed after the Africa Cup of Nations, Ivorians turned on their coach, Vahid Halihodzic, and he was fired just months away from the World Cup. The Elephants began scrambling to find a coach and many names began to circulate. Eventually, Sven-Goren Eriksson was chosen with less than three months (and only two friendly matches) to get his team together – an incredibly challenging task. The good news is that this Ivorian team is highly talented, with an amazing list of players to draw on, and Eriksson is a very experienced coach. He has already led England to two World Cup quarterfinals and will be coaching in his third consecutive World Cup. Eriksson is extremely excited about this opportunity and is looking to surprise the world in South Africa.
This is the most talented African team from top to bottom, and the list begins with the African Player of the Year, Didier Drogba. Drogba is an incredible forward who is both the captain and all-time leading scorer for Cote d’Ivoire. Drogba is a massive physical presence whose power and control can change a game in a second. He is such a powerful force that he appears to be unstoppable when he puts his mind to it. Ivorians will hope that he does just that in the World Cup.
Joining Drogba up front is his Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou. Kalou is a very fast and dangerous forward and is a great complement to the physical Drogba. Many expect these two to provide some amazing moments in this World Cup, and given they play together all the time, they could be one of the most exciting forward duos to watch.
Two other names to know are brothers Yaya and Kolo Toure. Both Toures are strong defensive players who cause problems for anyone who tries to get past them. Yaya plays in the midfield and is capable of shutting down the other team’s plays before they begin. The older brother, Kolo, leads the defense and is considered one of the best defenders in the English Premier League. Both brothers are extremely gifted in the air on both defense and offense.
One other name to know on this team is Didier Zokora. Zokora is a very experienced midfielder who has the most all-time appearances representing Cote d’Ivoire. Zokora is a midfielder who loves to tackle and works extremely hard. Ivorians will hope his work ethic and desire will be contagious as this squad tries to rally together around a brand new coach and surprise the world.