With the first World Cup on African soil, more attention than usual will be paid to the continent’s respective teams, and it is the Ivorians who seem to have the best chance of success.
The Ivory Coast went into the African Cup of Nations 2010 as clear favourites but an extra time quarter final exit at the hands of Algeria put the Elephants firmly back in their place and it was that early exit that ultimately led to the arrival of former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Sven knows what it’s like to lose to Brazil at the World Cup and should the same befall him this summer in the group stage they’ll need to match the Portuguese in order to advance, and this is something one may be foolish to rule out given the recent troubles Portugal have suffered on the international stage. One mustn’t forget the Ivory Coast went through their qualifying undefeated.
Unsurprisingly, current African Footballer of the year, Didier Drogba, finds himself in the top ten runners to be top goalscorer given his six goals in five qualifying games and unrelenting form for Chelsea. However, Sven himself has warned that relying on the Chelsea front man won’t be enough and fellow stars, Salomon Kalou, Aruna Dindane, Yaya and Kolo Toure as well as Emmanuel Eboue will all have to pull their weight to get out of a tough looking group for the Ivorians.
Optimism does exist within their ranks that this could be a year they could make their mark on the world stage and, with further backup in Abdul Keita, Bakari Kone and Gervinho, there is a certain confidence that the Ivorians are capable of getting goals even against quality opposition – a 2-2 draw with Germany at the end of 2009 is further evidence of this.
The problems could therefore come at the back, and the manner in which they departed the African Cup of Nations, 3-2 to Algeria, and with which South Korea recently beat them 2-0 in a London-based friendly will give their opponents hope that their backline is more than penetrable.
Sven took England to two successive quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006, and if he managed to do it this time around it would be viewed as a major success. However, the reality is that second place in Group G would almost certainly mean a date with Spain and that’s where their dream seems likely to end.