Team: Ivory Coast
Colours: Orange shirts, socks and shorts, all with green trim
Nickname: The Elephants
Previous World Cup appearances: (1) 2006
Best World Cup performance: Did not get past the first round in 2006
Coach: Sven-Goran Eriksson
Most capped player: Didier Zokora 84
Top scorer: Didier Drogba 42
FIFA Ranking (Apr 10) : 27
Ivory Coast Squad
With only one participation at the 2006 World Cup - in the "Group of Death" with Argentina and the Netherlands - the Ivorians showed what they were capable of in Germany, but their lack of experience at that level didn't allow them to fully explore their potential. But four years later, with some of the best players on the planet now blossoming on their team, everyone is expecting them to do better, and they will undoubtedly have to live up to those high expectations. Along with Ghana, the Elephants are the African continent's great hopes for the next World Cup.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
In a group composed of Guinea, Burkina-Faso and Malawi, it was fairly foreseeable that the Elephants would be the team going through to the World Cup, even though Burkina and Guinea were seen as the "Young Guns" of African football before the campaign.
Starting by humiliating Malawi 5-0 in what will be most remembered for the Houphouet Boigny Stadium catastrophe, they went on to beat Burkina-Faso and Guinea in away games. In the return phase they gave Burkina another 5-0 thrashing before finishing the campaign off by drawing to Malawi and letting their B-team oust Guinea.
With Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho, Boubacar Sanogo, Aruna Dindane, Amara Diane, Bakari Kone, and many more, Cote d'Ivoire's firepower seems endless. With strikers starting in some of the most successful European clubs, the Ivorians seem to have one of the most impressive attacking lineups in the tournament.
The main weakness of the team will be the tremendous egos that are in it. Despite an overall great ambiance, the competitive aspect of things has proven to be a negative catalyst in recent months as several fights have erupted during their qualifying campaign, the most recent one resulting Salomon Kalou's expulsion from the selection.
Vahid Halilhodzic is a Bosnian manager who has worked for most of his coaching career in France, but now finds himself in West Africa. He's known to be a disciplinarian with a very honest way of speaking to the press and the players themselves. He has one sole mission: he must win the African Cup of Nations before even being allowed to coach at the World Cup, so he'll make sure to focus on that objective for the time being.
Didier Drogba (Chelsea): With one of the biggest names in football today and being one of the most popular players in Africa, Dider Drogba is a symbol, a role-model and a peace officer, being instrumental in ending the brooding civil war that was threatening his country in 2004. His finishing and powerful play set him apart from other strikers.
Kolo Toure (Manchester City): The leader on the pitch. He's the one everyone turns to for guidance, as they have always done since his days at the Academie des Mimosas of ASEC Abidjan. With his younger brother being a star, and most of his teammates growing up under his tutelage, he is considered the godfather of the team and his performances set the tone when it comes to the bigger rendez-vous.
Gervinho (Lille): The youngster of the squad. With a style so flamboyant they gave him a Brazilian nickname, the newly-signed Lille player is exciting to watch. His little frame and centre of gravity allow him to change direction instantly, and Gervinho has been called the African Messi.
BEST FOOTBALLING MOMENT
Their best moment of international football was during the 1992 African Cup of Nations in Senegal, where they won the trophy on penalties against an Abedi Pele-less Ghanaian side and an amazing Alain Gouamene. They never managed to get the tournament-winning alchemy since then, though, and the clock seems to be running out for this generation.
OFF THE PITCH
Famous for: Their local gastronomy: Atieke and Aloko bananas, a vast amount of coffee, delicious fruits, and also cacao. Abidjan is the biggest port in West Africa, and much of the world's best produce leaves its shores
Most likely to: Have all their fans mixed up with Netherlands fans as they also move dipped in orange from head-to-toe.
WORLD CUP OBJECTIVE
Getting out of the group stages is expected from them, and making it to the quarter-finals will definitely be an objective for the Elephants as well. With this much quality on paper they should at least go further than they did in Germany.
First Published: Monday, June 07, 2010, 12:15