World Cup: Ivorians rely on Drogba and Toure

World Cup: Ivorians rely on Drogba and Toure

This tournament presents perhaps the final chance for Ivory Coast's golden generation to make their presence felt.

French coach Sabri Lamouchi will oversee a vastly talented group spearheaded by veteran Galatasaray striker Didier Drogba and Manchester City midfield powerhouse Yaya Toure.

An unbeaten qualifying campaign secured a third successive Finals berth for the African nation, and they are gunning to reach the last 16 for the first time after perilous draws in 2006 and 2010 resulted in them failing to progress beyond the group stage.

A third-place finish among Argentina, Holland and Serbia & Montenegro was the best they could manage in Germany, while Brazil and Portugal advanced at their expense in South Africa four years later.

Unfortunately, for a group of players who have touched the heights of European club football, there is a similar story to be told from other international outings.

TALENT

Almost without question the most talented group ever assembled from their continent, the present Ivory Coast squad do not have an African Nations Cup winner's medal between them, with Egypt and Zambia inflicting penaltyshootout heartache in the 2006 and 2012 Finals respectively.

The problem is that Drogba and Toure, along with the latter's elder brother Kolo, Didier Zokora and enigmatic goalkeeper Boubacar Barry, are all now in their 30s.

Younger attacking talent like Wilfried Bony, show Ivory Ivory Coast's impressive production line is far from creaking, but they will do well to top the impressive collective Lamouchi is operating with.

Toure is undoubtedly the key player. An accomplished holding player with Barcelona, his transformation into an allaction midfield powerhouse at Manchester City has been thrilling.

City's FA Cup, Premier League and League Cup triumphs in recent seasons had definitive contributions from Toure as their common feature. Having smashed through the 20-goal barrier for the first time this term, a player who turns 31 on the eve of the World Cup appears to be hitting his peak.

Former Feyenoord and Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou is another vital cog in the Elephants' machine.

Enjoying a new lease of life since joining Lille in 2012, the 28-year-old scored in both legs of the 4-2 aggregate play-off triumph that saw Ivory Coast book their Finals place at Senegal's expense.

Coach Lamouchi took his place as Francois Zahoui's successor in the Ivory Coast hot-seat as a managerial rookie.

Nevertheless, an esteemed playing career with Inter Milan, Monaco and Marseille means he boasts an elite-level pedigree to match many of the celebrated stars at his disposal. Taking charge of perhaps the finest group of African footballers ever assembled, Lamouchi must secure progress beyond the group stage to be considered a success.


This article was first published on June 10, 2014.
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