Ivory Coast’s Depth Makes The African Nation A Top Contender

Filed under World Cup
Reuters

Didier Drogba

Ivory Coast coach Fernando Santos’ 28-man provisional squad is full of world-class talent capable of securing the country and Africa their first World Cup trophy.

Included in the roster are young players with a plethora of energy, attacking players with an eye for goal, creative players at the top of their game and veterans who know what it takes to win. Led by renowned goalscorer, Didier Drogba, these set of players have what it takes to shock the world in Brazil.

Of all five African teams in the tournament, Santos’ side is the most complete because of its depth. In all outfield positions, Santos has five to six potential starters.

In defense, Barclays Premier League legend, Kolo Touré, will participate in what might be his last international tournament. The 33-year-old will play alongside Bamba Souleymane in the middle, Arthur Boka will occupy the left back spot and highly rated Toulouse defender, Serge Aurier, will be a force on the right side.

Aurier, considered to be one of the best right backs in the world and an Arsenal transfer target, adds new dimensions to the defense. Besides being a good defender, the 21-year-old is a player that forces wingers to track back defensively. The youngster likes to attack, and by doing so, he adds an extra man to Ivory Coast’s offense.

The list of adept midfielders is headlined by Manchester City’s facilitator, Yaya Touré. Coming off his astonishing season in England, the 31-year-old is ready to take over the biggest stage in professional sports. The intimidating box-to-box midfielder will be the creative force that drives Ivory Coast’s offense.

Behind Touré, hard-tackling defensive midfielders Cheick Tioté and Geoffroy Serey Die will gladly cleanup their teammate’s mess. Their responsibility will be to sit in front of the defense, but occasionally they’ll join the attack.

Santos could bring Max Gradel and Didier Ya Konan off the bench if he wishes to add more attacking force to his midfield.

The deepest talent pool on Les Éléphants’ roster is the array of electric forwards. Anything short of two goals per game should be an embarrassment for Ivory Coast.

During the 2013/2014 season, five of the seven forwards selected, combined to score 66 goals in Italy, England, France, Russia and Switzerland.

In what should be a three man front line, Gervinho and Salomon Kalou are going to start out-wide, but at this moment, the third forward is anyone’s guess.

Drogba is the most popular option because of his reputation and leadership, but a case has to be made for Wilfried Bony. The surprisingly skillful forward has scored 24 goals in 45 appearances for Swansea City. Originally labeled as a target man with Vitesse, Bony showed he was capable of doing more than shielded the ball and scoring goals.

With Michu out injured for majority of the season, the Ivorian was Swansea’s main offensive threat. He drifted into the midfield to receive passes, was an outlet on fast breaks and he turned into a facilitator at times.

The only weakness in the squad is at the goalkeeper position. Although 34-year-old Boubacar Barry has over 70 international caps, he isn’t a trustworthy shot-stopper. He makes too many mistakes on set-pieces and concedes goals that could easily have been saved.

Besides Barry, the other goalkeepers selected by Santos have little or no international experience. Stabaek’s Sayouba Mande and ASEC Mimosas’ Ali Badra Sangare have only represented their country once, while Sewe San Pedro’s Sylvain Gbohouo has zero caps.

Matched up in Group C with Greece, Japan and Colombia, Ivory Coast should be able to qualify for the knockout stage. Once they’re through, the depth of their squad could carry them all the way to the glory.

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About Shay Awosiyan

I'm a broadcast journalism student at the University of Oklahoma. I'm a sports enthusiast, with an uncontrollable love for soccer. I am a devoted follower of international football, MLS, EPL, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga, NBA, NFL and many more. Share and follow me on twitter @THESHAY11

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