IVORY COAST WORLD CUP BUILD UP
By: Lungelo Ngcamu
With less than three weeks before the start of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, participating nations are busy sharpening their squads and building mental focus to players.
It is no exception to Ivory Coast who will be making their third appearance in this year’s edition. The Elephants have unfinished business at the world cup, having been dumped out at the group stage on the two occasions they have qualified.
The Elephants will be looking to salvage their pride as they are drawn in Group C with Greece, Columbia and Japan. It may seem as an easy group, but they are aware of the mountain they will have to climb to advance to the next round.
The provisional squad that coach Sabri Lamouchi announced ealier this month featured the likes of the African Footballer of the Year and Manchester City power house Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba and Lacina Traore, Didier Zokora , Gervinho and Salomon Kalou.
This is the greatest generation of all times in the Ivorian football history yet they never had a taste of gold not even in continental tournaments.
Much of the expectation lies heavily on the shoulders of the aboved-mentioned players to ensure that their nation display a sterling performance. This is the chance to prove their worth.
Lamouchi’s men had a good run in group qualifyers – winning four from their six matches, scored 15 goals and conceded five dropping only four points in the process.
But, their play-off games were not an easy task since they had to go through a tough Senegalese side.
Senegal imposed a big stunt in their second leg as they were just one goal away from knocking out The Elephants on away goal advantage.
Thanks to Kalou’s late strike that settled the tie 3-2 and sent Ivoirians to their third consecutive World Cup.
For the first time they are not grouped against World Cup favourites. In 2006 they faced Argentina, Netherlands and Serbia & Montenegro while in 2010 they played with Brazil, Portugal and North Korea.
They will be looking for the first time to march in the shoes of compatriots Senegal, Cameroon and Ghana who all have made it through the group stages in previous tournaments.
Whether Sabri Lamouchi’s experienced side will proceed for the first time in group stages it remains to be seen.