Group C: Colombia, Ivory Coast, Greece, Japan
Ivory Coast is making their third consecutive World Cup appearance. The best team in Africa has got some business to take care of, having been knocked out of the group stages in both 2006 and 2010. Defeats to Argentina and Netherlands in their first two games spoiled their World Cup debut, while in 2010, they were unable to topple powerhouses Brazil and Portugal.
“They got a really good chance to finally get out of the group stages,” said Kristian Jack.
“They are arguably the best team in Africa, the most talented team in Africa for a number of years, but they haven’t been able to show that at the World Cup level because of their draws. They got a very difficult draw in ’06 against Argentina and the Dutch, and an even draw in 2010 with Portugal and Brazil.”
This time around, Ivory Coast should have a more comfortable run in the group stages. They have been drawn in Group C with Columbia, Greece and Japan. Though these three pose less of a threat than in previous years, the African team should not take any of these three lightly.
Against a team like Japan, who they will open up their group stage match against, Ivory Coast can use their brute strength and superior pace. What they will need to watch out for though is the technical ability of this Japan team. Like David and Goliath, Japan can use their cunning and superior tactical abilities to take them down.
“I think what you got in the Ivory Coast team is, look at the players they got, the caliber that they can play; Yaya Toure who can take over a game, obviously, and they got a lot of other talented players there. I think the best style will get them through,” said Jack.
Head coach, Sabri Lamouchi, will look to senior members like Galatasaray’s Didier Drogba, and the Toure brothers, Yaya and Kolo, to lead his team into the knock-out stages. Along with these three players, Lamouchi has got an arsenal of players that can contribute. AS Roma’s Gervinho, who is having a great season, following his transfer from Arsenal, will be looked upon to help with the Elephants’ attack. Wilfried Bony of Swansea and Everton striker, Lacina Traore, on loan from AS Monaco FC, will be other players to watch out for.
Newcastle United’s Cheick Tiote will most likely partner with Yaya Toure in the holding midfield position. He will reinforce a feeble Ivory Coast defence, while Yaya, who is known more for his marauding runs than his defence, helps with the attack.
Defensively, Ivory Coast will have a difficult time keeping opponents off the score sheet. Apart from Kolo Toure, there are no other players in the back four that stand out, not that Kolo Toure is a standout player himself. The ageing defence is questionable, and the lack of speed and quality at the back can also be their demise.
With their misfortunes in the previous group stages, this is the perfect time and opportunity for Ivory Coast to validate themselves as an African soccer powerhouse.