Team Profile: Ivory Coast
- Coach: Sven Goran-Eriksson
- Goalkeepers: Boubacar Barry (KSC Lokeren/Belgium), Daniel Yeboah (ASEC Mimosas), Aristide Zogbo (Maccabi Netanya/Israel)
- Defenders: Souleman Bamba (Hibernian/Scotland), Arthur Boka (Stuttgart/Germany), Emmanuel Eboue (Arsenal/England), Siaka Tiene (Valenciennes/France), Kolo Toure (Manchester City/England), Guy-Roland Demel (Hamburg/Germany), Steve Gohouri (Wigan/England), Benjamin Angoua (Valenciennes/France)
- Midfielders: Koffi Romaric N'Dri (Sevilla/Spain), Cheick Tiote (FC Twente), Yaya Toure (Barcelona/Spain), Didier Zokora (Sevilla/Spain), Emmanuel Kone (Cluj/Romania), Jean-Jacques Gosso Gosso (Monaco/France)
- Forwards: Aruna Dindane (Portsmouth/England), Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow/Russia), Didier Drogba (C helsea/England), Salomon Kalou (Chelsea/England), Abdul Keita (Galatasaray/Turkey), Gervinho (Lille/France)
Style of play: Ivory Coast usually goes with a 4-4-2 formation, but with such a talented collection of strikers, don't be surprised to see coach Sven Goran-Eriksson use a 4-3-3 setup. Regardless of how many strikers he uses, two or three, Didier Drogba will lead the line, playing off the service of his teammates. Winning possession is one the team's strengths, and Didier Zokora and Yaya Toure form one of the best central midfield partnerships in the international game. It's the outstanding hard work of this duo that allows the more speedy players, Salomon Kalou foremost among them, to organize the attack. Lacking a genuine playmaker, it'll be up to Kalou, and wingbacks Emmanuel Eboue and Siaka Tiene, to use their pace to get the ball to the feet of Drogba.
- June 15 vs. Portugal in Port Elizabeth
- June 20 vs. Brazil in Johannesburg
- June 25 vs. North Korea in Nelspruit
Projected starting lineup (4-4-2): (GK) Boubacar Barry - (D) Kolo Toure, Souleymane Bamba, Emmanuel Eboue, Siaka Tiene - (M) Didier Zakora, Yaya Toure, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou - (F) Aruna Dindane, Didier Drogba
- Attacking options - The Ivory Coast scored 29 goals in 12 qualifying games, a testament to the depth of their attacking talent. Not only do they have one of the best strikers in the world in Didier Drogba, but they have dangerous attackers in the form of Salomon Kalou, Kader Keita and Aruna Dindane.
- Midfield steel - While every team needs a playmaker, it also needs a midfield enforcer - strong and powerful players who can strip the opposition of the ball and launch his own team's attack. The Ivory Coast have two that fit the bill in Yaya Toure and Didier Zakora.
- Experience - Unlike the 2006 tournament, the Ivory Coast come to this World Cup with some experience under their belts and four years wiser. This is a more mature and tactically astute team that bowed out in the first round in Germany.
- Goalkeeping - This is a major area of concern as the teams lacks a quality goalkeeper, with the inconsistent Boubacar Barry is the best of a mediocre bunch of Ivorian shot stoppers.
- Coaching controversy - Sven Goran-Eriksson only took over the coaching reins in March, after previous manager Vahid Halilhodzic was fired following the team's poor showing at the African Nations Cup in January. Is that enough time for the Swede to put his mark on the team?
- Group of Death - When the Ivorians made their World Cup debut four years ago, they had the misfortune of being drawn into the Group of Death. The same fate befell them this year, grouped together with Portugal and Brazil, their first two opponents. It could be that Les Elephants could already be out of contention by the time they play their third game, against North Korea.
Players to watch:
- Didier Droba - Considered one of the game's elite strikers, Drogba is equally adept at using his height to score with his head or his quick feet to breeze past defenders before blasting the ball into the net..
- Salomon Kalou - The Chelsea star is nothing if not versatile, equally adept at playing up front or on the wing. It's on the flanks, though, where he's most dangerous, using his speed to cut toward the middle and burn defenders.
- Yaya Toure - In one-on-one situations, the midfielder's physical attributes give him an edge. Toure is a tower of solid muscle and boundless strength. At nearly six feet, four inches, he is hard to out-jump and his long legs make him even harder to out-run.
Key injuries/squad omissions: The status of star striker Didier Drogba remains in doubt. Drogba borke his arm during a recent friendly but the underwent surgery to repair the damage. The team has not confirmed whether the Chelsea star will be fit to play at the World Cup. The omission of striker Bakari Kone was a big surprise. The following players were also left off the team: goalkeeper Aristide Zogbo; defender Abdoulaye Meite; midfielders Emmanuel Kone, Gilles Yapi Yapo, Kanga Akale and Emerse Fae; and striker Lacina Traore.
Prognosis: Quarter-finals. Of the six African nations competing at the World Cup, the Ivory Coast has the best chance of going far in the tournament. Led by the dangerous Didier Drogba, the Ivorians make up for a lack of bench depth with a solid and balanced starting lineup and strength in midfield. With plenty of attacking options, Les Elephants should power their way past Portugal to claim second place in Group G and have enough left over to make it through to the quarter-finals.
ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
- Current FIFA ranking: #27
- Qualification route: In the second round of the African qualifiers, Ivory Coast (12 points) won Group 7 ahead of Mozambique (eight points). In the final round, Ivory Coast (13 points) won Group 5 ahead of Burkina Faso (nine points).
- Key to qualification: A balanced roster. While the might not have a great deal of depth, the Ivorians do have quality in defence (Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue), midfield (Salomon Kalou and Yaya Toure) and up front (Didier Drogba and Bakary Kone).
- Crucial result: A 1-1 tie against Malawi (Oct. 10, 2009 in Blantyre) was enough for Ivory Coast to secure a World Cup berth with a game remaining in the African qualifiers.
- Qualifying record: 12 games played, 8 wins, 4 draws, 0 losses
- Goals for: 29
- Goals against: 6
- Top goal-scorer in qualifying: Didier Drogba (6)
Qualifying results: (home team listed first)
- June 1, 2008 - Ivory Coast 1, Mozambique 0
- June 8, 2008 - Madagascar 0, Ivory Coast 0
- June 14, 2008 - Botswana 1, Ivory Coast 1
- June 22, 2008 - Ivory Coast 4, Botswana 0
- Sept. 7, 2008 - Mozambique 1, Ivory Coast 1
- Oct. 11, 2008 - Ivory Coast 3, Madagascar 0
- March 29, 2009 - Ivory Coast 5, Malawi 0
- June 7, 2009 - Guinea 1, Ivory Coast 2
- June 20, 2009 - Burkina Faso 2, Ivory Coast 3
- Sept. 5, 2009 - Ivory Coast 5, Burkina Faso 0
- Oct. 10, 2009 - Malawi 1, Ivory Coast 1
- Nov. 14, 2009 - Ivory Coast 3, Guinea 0
- Number of World Cup appearances: 1
- All-time record: 3 games played, 1 win, 0 draws, 2 losses
- Goals for: 5
- Goals against: 6
- Biggest victory: 3-2 vs. Serbia in 2006
- Biggest defeat: 2-1 vs. Argentina in 2006 and 2-1 vs. the Netherlands in 2006
- Overall top scorers: Aruna Dindane (2 goals)
- Most appearances: Several players (3 matches)
- Hosted the World Cup: Never
World Cup track record
- 1930 to 1970 - Did not enter
- 1974 - Did not qualify
- 1978 - Did not qualify
- 1982 - Did not enter
- 1986 to 2002 - Did not qualify
- 2006 - First Round
- FIFA member since: 1964
- Team nickname: Les Elephants (The Elephants)
- All-time caps leader: Didier Zakora (80)
- All-time leading scorer: Didier Drogba (43)
- African Nations Cup Champions: 1992
- Laurent Pokou: The second all-time leading scorer in the African Nations Cup, with 14 goals. Pokou led Ivory Coast to back-to-back semifinal appearances in the competition (1968 and 1970) and holds the tournament record for most goals in a game (five against Ethiopia in 1970). He played for Stade Rennais and Nancy-Lorraine in the French first division during the 1970s.
- Youssouf Falikou Fofana: A key member of the Ivorian team that won the 1982 African Nations Cup, Fofana earned a reputation as a spectacular dribbler during his days playing in French first division with such high-profile clubs as Monaco and Bordeaux.