When the Ivory Coast manager Vahid Halilhodži? announced his squad for the forthcoming African Cup of Nations, there were few surprises. In fact, there were none. The Bosnian maestro, as expected, has named an exciting group of players, comprising of some of the biggest names in African football: Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, and Kolo Toure.
With a side that will have to adapt to the strenuous climate of Angola, Halilhodži? and almost nineteen million Ivoirians will have high hopes resting on the shoulders of Didier Drogba, their all-time leading goal scorer and captain. The thirty-one year old Chelsea forward will want to make a lasting impression, after declaring that this will be his last African Cup of Nations. Powerful and with skill in abundance, Drogba has scored an astonishing 42 goals in 61 appearances for the ‘Elephants’, including six in qualifying for this prestigious event. The managers’ of Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Togo will have defensive headaches trying to keep Drogba quiet, with his partnership with club-mate Saloman Kalou possibly the most prolific in Africa.
- Didier Drogba is key to Halilhodži?’s hopes of African success
With stars such as Emerse Fae providing attacking intent from midfield, Yaya Toure will do ‘the ugly stuff’, at which he is renowned for being one of the best in the world. Playing his club football in La Liga with Barcelona, the twenty-six year old couples physical power with immaculate technique to dominate the midfield area and break down any counter attacks from the opposition. Although his statistics may suggest otherwise, Toure also possesses a fearful strike. The defensive midfielder can also be utilised as a centre-back, as shown in the 2009 Champions League final where he kept out the threat of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.
- Yaya Toure; the Ivory Coast’s unsung hero
In defence, the Ivory Coast’s key player is Yaya Toure’s elder brother, Kolo Toure. Captain of ‘moneybags’ Manchester City, twenty-eight year old Toure is widely esteemed for his strength and athleticism, as well as his determined passion for victory. After starting his international career in 2000 against Rwanda, Toure is now one of the first names on the team sheet, although his lack of height for a defender slightly restricts his ability to score goals, with only two to his name on the international scene. Together with fellow English-based squad members Emmanuel Eboue and Abdoulaye Meite, Toure is part of a unit that sides such as Ghana and Cameroon will find tough to break down.
- Kolo Toure will be looking to prevent his side from conceding
However, the Ivory Coast do have one major weakness; goalkeepers. The fact that first choice ‘keeper Boubacar Barry plies his trade for Lokeren in the Belgian Jupiler League tells a story in itself. Barry was widely blamed for Egypts’ opening goal during the 2008 African Cup of Nations, letting a weak shot slip under his arms to hand the Pharaohs the lead. Unlike the rest of the squad, there is no strong alternative to solve the shot-stopping solution. Reserve keepers Aristide Zogbo and Vincent Angban play for Maccabi Netanya and ASEC Mimosas respectively, with the latter the only Ivoirian-based player in Halilhodži?’s squad.
Goalkeepers – Boubacar Barry (Lokeren), Aristide Zogbo (Maccabi Netanya), Vincent Angban (ASEC Mimosas)
Defenders – Kolo Toure (Man City), Emmanuel Eboue (Arsenal), Guy Demel (Hamburg), Souleymane Bamba (Hibernian), Bejamin Angoua (Honved), Arthur Boka (VfB Stuttgart), Aboudalye Meite (West Bromwich Albion), Siaka Tiene (Valenciennes)
Midfielders – Yaya Toure (Barcelona), Didier Zokora (Sevilla), Emmanuel Kone (International Curtea de Arges), Cheik Tiote (FC Twente), Emerse Fae (Nice), Jean-Jacques Gosso (Monaco), Abdul Kader Keita (Galatasary)
Forwards – Didier Drogba (Chelsea), Salomon Kalou (Chelsea), Bakari Kone (Marseille), Aruna Dindane (Portsmouth), Gervinho (Lille)
- Opinion: West Brom 3-3 Chelsea | How Frank Lampard got it wrong from the start
- Three games to watch out for in Matchday 3 of the Premier League
- Borussia Dortmund gives final verdict over Manchester United target
- Three talking points after Bayern Munich win the UEFA Super Cup
- Opinion: Luis Suarez to Metropolitano Stadium could be a perfect deal for Atletico Madrid but fatal for Barcelona