Background:Now or never for the Ivory Coast? Perhaps not quite, but time is ticking for this so called ‘golden generation’ to deliver on their promise.
The common consensus is that the likes of Didier Drogba and Kolo Toure are not the players they used to be, both now well into their 30s, and still looking for their first international honor. A runners-up spot to Egypt in the 2006 final is the best the Ivory Coast have mustered since winning the event in 1992 – their only major international trophy to date.
In the absence of Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria, the Ivory Coast are tipped by many to reach the final in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, but painful exits in the semi-finals and quarter-finals of the last two tournaments remain fresh in the memory for fans of les Elephants.
Coach Francois Zahoui, who succeeded Svan-Goran Eriksson, is well aware that his men have not lived up to expectations in recent tournaments admitting that they have entered as the “super-favurite only to come back disappointed”.
They will again be fancied to qualify from a group consisting of Burkina Faso, Angola and Sudan, but it is in the knock-out stages where les elephants have suffered in recent years.
23-man Ivory Coast Africa Cup of Nations Squad:
Goalkeepers: Barry Boubacar (Lokeren, Belgium), Gerrard Gnanahouan (Avranches, France), Daniel Yeboah (Dijon, France)
Defenders: Siake Tiene (Paris St Germain, France), Arthur Boka (Stuttgart, Germany), Benjamin Angoua Brou (Valenciennes, France), Igor Lolo (FC Kuban Krasnodar, Russia), Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor, Turkey), Emmanuel Eboue (Galatasaray, Turkey), Kolo Toure (Manchester City, England), Souleymane Bamba (Leicester City, England)
Midfielders: Kafoumba Coulibaly (Nice, France), Jean-Jacques Gosso Gosso (Orduspor, Turkey), Didier Ya Konan (Hannover, Germany), Cheick Tiote (Newcastle United, England), Max Gradel (St Etienne, France), Yaya Toure (Manchester City, England)
Forwards: Gervinho (Arsenal, England), Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow, Russia), Didier Drogba (Chelsea, England), Salomon Kalou (Chelsea, England), Wilfried Boni (Vitesse Arnhem, Netherlands), Abdul Kader Keita (Al Sadd, Qatar).
What They Say:
Wilfried Boni (forward)“The coach has confidence in us; he creates a sense of responsibility in the squad without coming across as overbearing. He makes it clear how he wants us to play the game and ensures that we’re always there for each other on and off the pitch. He’s provided us with the keys to success, and now it’s up to us to give our all and bring home the trophy”. (Fifa.com)
Player to Watch:
Yaya ToureThe giant midfielder has been one of Manchester City’s best players this season, with manager Roberto Mancini clearly fearful of the affect his absence will have on City’s title challenge. Watching Toure slip through the gears as he carries the ball through midfield is reminiscent of a Roy Keane or Patrick Vieira in his pomp and Zahoui will need this spiky competitor at his best if his team are to come home with the bacon. The coach rejected Coty’s request to allow 2011 African Footballer of the Year Yaya and his brother Kolo to join the squad late so that they could feature in the FA Cup third round tie against Manchester United on January 8.