WORLD CUP HISTORY: Making their World Cup debut four years ago, Ivory Coast performed admirably in a tough group, losing close contests to Argentina and the Netherlands before winning their final match against Serbia and Montenegro. The Elephants showed enough promise to suggest they are on the brink of a major breakthrough on the world stage.
QUALIFICATION: After the impressive showing in 2006, qualification was expected for 2010. Ivory Coast had little problem delivering just that. The team went unbeaten in the final qualifying stage in Africa with five wins and a draw, netting 19 goals while conceding just four.
KEY PLAYER: Didier Drogba. Though the team boasts names such as Kalou, Zokora, Eboue, and a couple of talented Toures, it’s with the big man up front that Ivory Coast will live and die from. Drogba is arguably the best centre forward in world football. Almost impossible to handle when he’s on, he’s a lethal mix of brains and brawn. The only weakness to his game might be his attitude. But if he’s happy, and he should be after leading Chelsea to a double this past season, watch out.
EXPECTATIONS: Ivory Coast was to be considered Africa’s great hope in 2010, but being drawn into the group of death wasn’t part of the plan. Brazil, Portugal and North Korea are the obstacles holding back the African nation from the knockout phase. Assuming the Koreans are cannon fodder, it will come down to three powerful teams fighting for two spots. If the Ivorians find themselves in the Round of 16, it would be considered a slight shock, but they have the ability to do it.