Sunday, 6 June 2010

32 For 2010: Ivory Coast

Arguably the African team with the biggest names (from a British perspective at least) Cote D'Ivoire enter the World Cup with great expectations on their shoulders. But do they have the squad to be the first winners of the World Cup to come from the African continent?

If you'd seen them in the Africa Cup of Nations earlier in the year you'd have to say no. That cataclysmic capitulation to Algeria was baffling to watch. The players just seem to have all the energy sucked out of them. The defeat was deemed unexpected and premature. The consequence was their coach Vahid Halilhodzic lost his job despite guiding the squad through the African qualifications to the World Cup in South Africa.

This is not the first time that a coach of an African team has been deprived the honour of coaching a World Cup because he's fallen foul of the Africa Cup of Nations. I'm sure many coaches will be grateful that the tournament is to be moved to odd numbered years from 2013.

Anyway, you know what happened next. Sven Goran Eriksson sidled up to the Ivorian FA, whispered sweet nothings in their ears and before you know it landed a gig coaching some of the best players in Africa during the World Cup. Pretty sweet huh? And what a group of players he has to work with: The Toure Brothers, Kolo and Yaya from Arsenal and Barca respectively. Former Spurs and current Sevilla midfielder Didier Zakora, FA Cup legends Aruna Dindane and Saloman Kalou plus of course, the daddy himself Didier Drogba (assuming he is fit).

Hopefully, should Cote D'Ivoire reach the World Cup Final and are awarded a penalty, the big man won't throw a strop when Yaya Toure steps up to take it and deny the Chelsea striker the Golden Boot.

Unfortunately for them, the odds on such a facetious scenario taking place will be long. The Elephants face a tough passage to the second round. They have been drawn into Group G with Portugal, North Korea and the mighty Brazil. Personally, I think they can finish second but it will be a bally close thing. Of course, should the Ivory Coast manage this they will, in all likelihood, face Spain in the next stage and we all know how good they are.

Having said that, Eriksson is a past master of getting teams to quarter-finals of big tournaments and the Ivorians have the players to cause an upset. Perhaps it will be an African fairy tale after all.

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