The team: The Elephants looked set to be cruising to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil after winning their qualifying group at a canter with four wins and two draws from six matches. But in the playoff stage they nearly came unstuck against Senegal, needing a late Salomon Kalou goal to secure safe passage to Brazil. Yet being able to call upon stars such as Kalou, Wilfried Bony, Gervinho, Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba, to name but a few, means more often than not, Cote d’Ivoire will be able to escape from tight spots. On paper, they have one of the strongest squads in the tournament. But FIFA World Cup history – two group stage exits in a row – suggests they may struggle on the pitch.
The coach: Sabri Lamouchi
Having played for some of the biggest club sides in Europe – Auxerre, Monaco, Internazionale and Marseille – and having been capped 12 times by France, Sabri Lamouchi can certainly command respect in his first managerial role. He’s already guided Cote d’Ivoire to the African Cup of Nations quarter-finals. An appearance in the last-eight of the FIFA World Cup would be considered a success.
Key player: Yaya Toure
At times unstoppable for Manchester City in the Premier League, Yaya Toure can wreak havoc against any team. The box-to-box midfielder has strength, an eye for a killer pass and a fearsome shot. Any team would benefit from his inclusion.
World ranking: 21
World Cup appearances: 2
Previous best: Group stage in 2006 and 2010
Qualification: Group winner and playoff winner
Form (qualifiers): WDWWWDWD
Fixtures: June 15 vs. Japan; June 19 vs. Colombia; June 25 vs. Greece