2015 Nations Cup Special : The Elephants of Ivory Coast

Dubbed as perennial under achievers on the continent because of their star studded side, the elephants of Ivory Coast might just be too hot for any African side to contain if they are to gel as a unit. The good thing in football however is, teams are usually preferred to individual brilliance as in the case of the elephants.

Their limping road to qualification for the tournament including a complete massacre by fellow group members in the indomitable lions, their ever patient fans may not demand more than just a good show.

With stellar names like reigning African footballer of the year in Yaya Toure, skilful wing wizard in Gervaise Yaw Kouassie (Gervinho), midfield maestros like chieke Ishmeal Tiote and attacking potencies led by soon to be Manchester city center forward, Wilfred Bony, the ivorians on their day can easily whitewash any national team on the planet at large not least on the continent.

As part of our series in updating and informing our cherished readers, I take you through the ivorian Afcon history and their chances in Equitorial Guinea.

Paired in group D alongside DR Congo, Sierra leone and Cameroon, I thought the road to qualification would not have been that shaky, at least with the quality of players at their disposal. How wrong was I?.

They were molested in front of their teaming fans in Abidjan by a DR Congo side led by Crystal Palace pacy winger Yannick Bolasie whiles their trip to Younde in Cameroon will be one of their darkest qualification matches in recent history.

Conceding 4 goals each on both occasions, the Ivorians will finish the qualification campaign with the highest number of goals conceded in the continent on an alarming 11 goals at a rate of a goal in every 51.36 minutes of the qualification campaign.

Unsurprisingly, their prolific trident of attackers led the continental scoring chart with 13 goals, 2 more their closest rivals. Have they gotten an antidote to scoring while leaving their doors open? Their 120 goals in the tournament itself only confirm their goal scoring credentials on the continent.

With the caliber of strikers produced by the West African side, the lone continental jewel won after a long marathon shootout with fellow west African , Ghana, 23 years ago speaks bad for a nation like ivory Coast. When you factor in quality attackers like Didier Tebily Yves Drogba or current Wilfred Bony era, saying they are perennial underachievers might still be too economical with the choice of words.

They might claim of near misses as in Egypt 2006 or the unfortunate story on Ghanaian soil, but has generally failed to live up to their lofty standard.

Which African nation can match the quality of stellar names on the Ivorian team one on one basis? Surely that will not include the Zambians in 2012 or even the super eagles in 2013. So do they have a team or a set of stellar names on the pitch? I think they have the former rather than the latter.

Appearance: 21st
DEBUT:  1970
PLAYED-81          WON-36               DRAWN-19         LOST -26     SCORED-120 CONCEDED-90


NATION                                                P                             W                           D                             L

CAMEROON                                       17                           5                              5                              7

GUINEA                                                18                           12                           4                              2

MALI                                                      28                           18                           7                              3

The route to the finals for the Ivorians could not have worsened any more, not least with Ghana, Senegal or South Africa in the waiting for the quarter final show down. If the elephants were to find their way in this thick dark forest, I suppose they will have to use their entire arsenal and how they need their stars to gel.

Equitorial Guinea may be the last tournament for most of their experienced players led by the Toure brothers and possibly Solomon Kalou. Could this be their time to lay their hands on the continent’s greatest soccer festival? Will Yaya Toure replicate his Etihaad form in Malabo or the form that saw them massacred by the indomitable lions of Cameroon? All eyes are watching the perennial underachievers of the continent?

Star players to watch:
Mentioning Saladin Ahmed as the star player for the blue sharks of cape Verde is as easy as one can imagine, but identifying one players from the elephants as a star players is as herculean as scoring a hatrick in the camp Nou.

The quality of players on the field is as evenly distributed either in class or performance as any national team globally, including the world champions, Germany. The simple answer is that all the eleven players are classy on the continent.

Not many midfielders can match the solidity of either Cheikh Tiote or the physical presence of the giant, Yaya Toure. The attacking pair or Wilfred Bony and Seidu Dumbia, flanked by the elusive Gervinho will be a nightmare for any opposition defenders. Their back line may be leaking goals like a mesh but the marauding runs by Serge Aurier and Toulouse’s Akpa Akpro Jean-Daniel may forced opposition defenders further back.

When you realize Solomon Kalou is still on the bench with the Tallest African striker currently in Lacine Traore, you will understand why I said there is no single stellar name in the team,  although Yaya Toure may just head the queue.

Their trainer will have to do some tactical permutation rather picking 23 physically fit and in form Ivorian players to the tournament. Felicitation Herver Renard. My stellar name in the ivorian side surprisingly, is their French trainer, Herve Renard for inspiring Zambia to the trophy 3 years ago.

The 23 players selected by Herve Renard for the continental show down is seen below

Goalkeepers: Gbohouo Sylvain (Sewe Sport San Pedro), MandeSayouba (Staebek), Coppa Barry (Lokeren)

Defenders: Aurier Serge (PSG), Tiené Sakia (Montpellier), Viera Ousmane (Rizesport), Kolo Touré (Liverpool), Wilfried Kanon (ADO Den Haag), Eric Bertrand Bailly (Espanyol), Akpa Akpro Jean-Daniel (Toulouse)

Midfielders: Diomandé Ismael (Saint-Etienne), Yaya Touré (Manchester City), Serey Die Geoffrey (Bâle), Doukouré Cheick (Metz ), Tioté Cheick (Newcastle), Gradel Max-Alain (Saint-Etienne), Assalé Roger (Sewe Sport San Pedro)

Forwards: Gervinho (AS Roma), Kalou Salomon (Hertha Berlin), Traoré Lacina (Monaco), Tallo Junior (Bastia), Bony Wilfred (Swansea), Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow)

By : Saani Abacha
Email:  [email protected]
Twitter: @saani_abacha

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