Ivory Coast Preview – Yaya And Drogba Drive On
World Cup 2014
How far can a team driven by a beast like Yaya Toure and a veteran like Didier Drogba go in this World Cup?
Despite having qualified easily for the World Cup, Ivory Coast’s form over the last year has an uneven look to it. They’ve won just two of their last nine in all competitions, a run that has included defeat by Ghana and heavy defeats to fellow African qualifiers Nigeria and to an ordinary Mexico side.
This patchy record is typical of a team that has rarely played to its full potential and which is often missing some of its big European-based stars, although the recent 2-2 draw against a fancied Belgium side was a better indication of their ability.
As the top-ranked African nation, the Ivory Coast earned a bye to the second round of CAF Qualification where they were given a straightforward task, comfortably defeating Gambia and Tanzania and drawing twice with Morocco to win the group undefeated with a game to spare.
Their reward was a third round tie against Senegal. They won the first leg 3-1, but endured a nervy second leg in which they trailed 1-0 for half an hour before an injury time goal from Salomon Kalou settled the tie and sealed their World Cup spot.
The Elephants boast one of the best squads in Africa, rich in attacking talent. Didier Drogba, in his last World Cup, will lead the line, but has capable deputies in Wilfried Bony and Seydou Doumbia, with Kalou and Gervinho offering pace and creativity in the wide areas, whilst the mighty Yaya Toure drives the team forward.
Their problem is with an ageing and ineffective back line.
Manager Sabri Lamouchi compensates by packing the midfield with solid players and plays a hard-pressing game, but at some point, their lack of quality at the back is sure to be exposed.
Ivory Coast can’t afford any complacency in their opener against Japan and will have to be patient in their final game against the defensive Greeks, but the key Group C game will be their second against Colombia, who will look to exploit their weakness in defence. If they can emerge unscathed from that game, they will be in great shape to reach the second round for the first time in their history.
Having landed in the Group of Death on both of their previous World Cup appearances, Ivory Coast have been given an easier task this time round, and are a solid bet at 4/5 in the World Cup Group C – To Qualify market.
They will beat Japan in their opener, but their weak defence undermines their attacking strength and they have a tendency to draw too many games. I can see them settling for a point against Colombia, then struggling to wear down Greece, so back them to finish with 5 points in their Total Group Points market at 15/2