15-June Japan (2am GMT Recife)
19-June Colombia (5pm GMT Brasilia)
24-June Greece (9pm GMT Fortaleza)
Ivory Coast are arguably the most feared and respected African team in the competition. Anthony Alborino states that it could be the golden generation’s last opportunity to make their mark on football’s biggest stage.
Coach: Sabri Lamouchi
This is Sabri Lamouchi’s first coaching position since he called an end to his distinguished 19-year playing career in 2009. Despite a clear lack of experience, he was hired in May 2012 as a surprise replacement for Francis Zahoui, who had led The Elephants to the Final of the Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon months previously. Although World Cup qualification was secured quite convincingly, the 42-year-old rookie French tactician still has some convincing to do.
Why they could be dangerous
Brazil 2014 will be the Ivory Coast’s third appearance at a World Cup, and they will be looking to progress past the group stages for the first time in their history – and simultaneously remove their ‘underachievers’ tag. With some key players entering their twilight years – Didier Zokora, Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure and Boubacar Barry – this will be something of a World Cup swansong, and they’ll undoubtedly be hopeful of making a big impact.
The world on his shoulders: Yaya Toure
A mainstay for both club and country, Yaya Toure has developed into one of the continent’s most accomplished midfielders in recent seasons, and won a third consecutive CAF African Footballer of the Year award in January. The 30-year-old midfield lynchpin has enjoyed much success at club level with Barcelona, and now Manchester City, winning a Champions League and three League titles among other accolades – and he has already stated his desire to replicate this at international level.
Did you know?
After being drawn in two consecutive groups of death in 2006 and 2010, finishing third on both occasions, firstly behind Argentina and the Netherlands, and then more recently, Brazil and Portugal. They are the sixth most successful country in Africa Cup of Nations history, winning the competition once in 1992, and they finished runners-up in 2006 and 2012.
Country legend: Didier Drogba
A veteran of the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, Drogba is a member of the Ivory Coast’s most talented generation, which will be making its bow at this summer’s tournament. He is on the verge of reaching 100 caps and is his country’s captain and all-time top scorer, with 63 goals. At 36, he’s the wise old head of this side and this represents his final shot at glory.
The Ivory Coast attack with a front three, and the ever-imposing Drogba usually leads the line, with the lightning fast Gervinho and Salomon Kalou joining from the flanks. They are supported by the influential Yaya Toure, who can contribute goals as well as a defence-splitting pass or two. Romaric and Cheick Tiote anchor the midfield to allow Toure to push forward, whilst wingbacks Arthur Boka and Serge Aurier are often expected to provide deliveries from wide.
Ivory Coast versus…
…Colombia P0 W0 D0 L0 F0 A0
…Greece P0 W0 D0 L0 F0 A0
…Japan P3 W1 D0 L2 F2 A2
Population: 22.4 million
World Cup appearances: 2
Best finish: 3rd position in Group phase, Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010.
Famous for: Continually being drawn in the infamous ‘group of death.’ Having only appeared at the World Cup twice, 2006 pitted them against Argentina, the Netherlands and Serbia and Montenegro, while in 2010 their group included Brazil, Portugal and North Korea.
Top Division: Ligue 1
How they got to the World Cup: Topped CAF Group C unbeaten before recording a 4-2 aggregate win over Senegal.
FIFA World Ranking: 21
Last World Cup Appearance: South Africa 2010 – Went out at the group stage, after finishing behind Brazil and Portugal in Group G.
Continental Honours: 1992 Africa Cup of Nations Champions
Most Capped Player: Didier Zokora (118 caps)
Leading International Scorer: Didier Drogba (63 goals)
Nickname: Les Éléphants – The Elephants