A recent force in African football, the Ivory Coast might be one of the continent’s best hopes of reaching the latter stages of the tournament. Their team has strong players that have played at the highest levels in club football, but the side have never made it past the group stage at the World Cup. With one of the easier groups in the tournament this year might be the one where they realise their potential.
Ivory Coast’s Footballing History
The Ivory Coast had some success in the Africa Cup of Nations in the 1960s, with some semi-final appearances, but it wasn’t until the 90s that they built themselves into one of the best sides in the continent. In 1992 they won their first Africa Cup of Nations and managed to get 3rd place in their defence of the tournament.
Twelve years later they reached the final of the Cup of Nations again losing on penalties to Egypt. In the same year they qualified for their first ever World Cup but had a tough group and did well to finish 3rd behind Argentina and Holland. They qualified again in 2010 but were drawn alongside Brazil and Portugal, only finishing third by a point.
The Ivory Coast had more heartbreak in the final of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations with another penalties defeat, this time to Zambia.
Ivory Coast’s Road to the Finals
It was a relatively easy route to the finals for the Ivory Coast this time around, going unbeaten through both stages. After winning a group by five points ahead of Morocco. They then played Senegal in a play-off to decide which of the two would make the World Cup, winning the first leg 3-1 and drawing 1-1 away to secure their third consecutive finals appearance.
Ivory Coast’s Key Players
Most of the Ivory Coast’s top players will be plenty familiar to British audiences, with the backbone of the side made from players that have played in the English Premier League. The captain is Didier Drogba, the former Chelsea striker, who will likely be playing in his final World Cup for his country and looking to go out on a high. In Yaya Toure the Ivory Coast have one of the best midfielders in the world at the moment, and he’ll be instrumental in creating opportunities for them to score. Yaya’s brother Kolo will be the choice centre-back for the team.
Ivory Coast’s Group
The Ivory Coast have been blessed with a relatively easy group this time around, starting off with a match against Japan on the 14th of June (2am, ITV). Then they face what is likely to be the winner of the group Colombia on the 19th (5pm, BBC). They could see themselves through to the last 16 for the first time against Greece five days later (9pm, BBC).
With their easiest group out of all their World Cup appearances, it really is a golden opportunity for the Ivory Coast to go as far in the tournament as they believe they can. I think they’ll take the second spot in the group, with Japan and Greece not appearing able to cope with the attacking prowess of Toure and Drogba but going further might be tough when they come up against the winners of a group including Uruguay, Italy and England. This should be the year for the Ivory Coast.