Ivory Coast World Cup squad guide

Didier Zokora with fan

The announcement of Ivory Coast’s a 30-man squad for the World Cup finals may not have contained many surprises, but not all the names will be familiar to everyone. Here’s the ElephantsOnline run-down in order of most-capped to least (source for stats: wikipedia).

Didier Zokora (Seville, Spain) - Age 29, Caps 80, Goals 1

Maestro, as he’s known locally, is one of the most popular Ivorian players. A defensive midfielder, he’s known as one of the hardest workers in the squad, as well as being generally down to earth. Not a great goalscorer, neither for Ivory Coast, nor Tottenham Hotspur, where he failed to score in 88 matches at the club, and he’s yet to score for Seville. The third choice captain (after Drogba and Kolo) and almost certainly guaranteed a place in the starting eleven.

Kolo Abib Toure (Manchester City, England) – Age 29, Caps 76, Goals 2

The reserve captain, Kolo is a strong defender, a regular starter and widely seen as the leader of the ex-Asec academy players.

Didier Drogba (Chelsea, England) – Age 32, Caps 66, Goals 43

The greatest Ivorian player of all time and the top goalscorer in the English Premiership league this season. Drogba brings an immense amount of publicity to the Ivory Coast team, although his background is atypical and this is rumoured to cause problems with those from Asec Mimosas. His goal against Malawi helped seal qualification for the World Cup, and the fortunes of the Ivory Coast team in South Africa depend very much on whether the hitman clicks with his team-mates. The lacklustre performances at the African Nations’ Cup in January left a good number of fans frustrated, but there’s still no taking away the pride many people feel at their captain, who could after all have played for France.

Abdul Kader Keita (Galatasaray, Turkey) – Age 28, Caps 55, Goals 11

“Popito” almost certainly ranks as the supporters’ favourite player at the moment and the only one to return from Angola with his head held high (indeed physically, the only player to return at all to Ivory Coast in the aftermath of the African Nations’ cup). His last minute goal against Algeria was voted the most spectacular of the tournament (on Canal) and even before the tournament, his name was repeatedly chanted by fans at home matches. An entertainer and a showman on and off the pitch, his dribbling isn’t always the most effective, but he remains a huge talent, even if he doesn’t always take it all very seriously. Supersub, or a possible starter alongside Drogba.

Aruna Dindane (Portsmouth, England) – Age 29, Caps 54, Goals 16

Dindane has struggled from injury and a lack of confidence in the past couple of years, but there’s no escaping the fact that he’s been one of the key players for Ivory Coast and performed well alongside Drogba. He’s unlikely now to be in the starting XI, but remains a useful option for Eriksson and finished the season well with Portsmouth. He’ll be hoping his future club situation is cleared up soon so he can concentrate on the World Cup.

Arthur Etienne Boka (VFB Stuttgart, Germany) – Age 27, Caps 54, Goals 1

A regular at left back with good pace moving forward, Boka seemed to fall out of fashion with previous coach Vahid Halilhodzic in Angola. Dubbed by some the African Roberto Carlos, he’s uncertain for the starting XI, but a reliable player none the less and sure to be in the final 23.

Siaka Tiene (Valenciennes, France) – Age 28, Caps 52, Goals 2

Aka “Chico”, his screamer of a free-kick against Ghana in Angola will live long in the memory. It generally comes down to him or Boka for the left-back position with both dangerous going forward.

Emmanuel Eboue (Arsenal, England) – Age 27, Caps 50, Goals 1

Another of the big name players, although his sending off in the African Nations’ cup against Ghana cost the team dear. Like all ex-Asec players, Eboue was brought up playing in all positions; he tends to play right-back, but is sometimes used as a right winger.

Abdoulaye Meite (West Bromwich Albian, England) – Age 29, Caps 48, Goals 1

A regular alongside Kolo in Ivory Coast squads in times gone past, but now rarely a starter. He again seems likely to make the final 23 though as a back-up defender. A training group bust up with Kalou at the end of 2009 is hopefully dead and buried.

Gilles Yapi Yapo (Youngs Boys, Switzerland) – Age 28, Caps 46, Goals 2

A useful and experienced midfielder, but the best he can hope for is the subs bench.

Yaya Gnegneri Toure (Barcelona, Spain) – Age 26, Caps 45, Goals 5

He’s not played as much football as he would have liked this season, but it’s probably quite fun being at one of the best club’s in the world. Attempts have been made to use Yaya as a playmaker, but it’s not always looked a good idea, and he remains more comfortable playing just in front of the backline. He had a disappointing Nations’ cup but he remains one of the stars of the squad playing at the very highest levels of the game. A definite in the starting XI.

Boubacar Barry (KSC Lokeren, Belgium) – Age 43, Caps 42, Goals 0

The first choice goalkeeper hasn’t been getting much first team action in Belgium this year, but the Elephants would really suffer without him, given the alternatives. At times he looks like a top class player, and made some vital saves during qualification notably early on in the match against Burkina Faso. He became the first choice keeper after the retirement of Jean-Jacques Tizie in 2007. In the 2008-09 season he was given the award for being the best goalkeeper in the Belgian league.

Bakari Kone (Marseille, France) – Age 28, Caps 41, Goals 9

Sadly, Baky is one of those players who stumbles from one injury to the next despite an obvious talent. At 1 metre 63  (5 ft 4 in) he’s a tiny but hard-working player with an incredible touch (he was nicknamed ‘petit Pele’ when growing up). He was extremely disappointing in the opening match of the Nations’ cup against Burkina Faso and only played a bit part in Marseille’s league win this season. An on-form Baky is fantastic asset, but with other strikers at the top of their game, Baky may not see much time on the pitch. A quality player though, and his long range strike against Holland in the last World Cup will be long remembered.

Romaric N’Dri Koffi (Seville, Spain) – Age 26, Caps 38, Goals 2

While previous coach Halilhodzic undoubtedly had his reasons for excluding Romaric from the Nations’ cup squad (discpline issues were cited), he does play an important role and has a good chance of being in the starting line-up. Zokora and Yaya Toure aren’t great at filling the space just behind the main attackers and Romaric is the playmaker that is otherwise missing in the squad.

Emerse Fae (Nice, France) – Age 26, Caps 37, Goals 1

A useful player to have on stand-by and probably certain to make the bench in South Africa, though with Romaric back, he’s unlikely to be starting.

Gauthier Akale Kanga (Lens, France) – AGe 29, Caps 33, Goals 3

Not a first choice winger this season for Lens and perhaps a candidate for the cut when Eriksson chooses his final 23.

Salomon Kalou (Chelsea, England) – Age 24, Caps 27, Goals 11

A strong return to form with Chelsea at the end of the season puts Kalou (or Kalunho as he’s called locally) in with a very good chance of being in the starting eleven. His understanding with Drogba makes this an important link between the Asec players and the captain. Any damage done by his attempts to play for Holland are now largely forgotten here.

Souleman Bamba (Hibs, Scotland) – Age 25, Caps 26, Goals 1

During qualifying the defensive line was repeatedly changed, but the coach finally settled on Bamba alongside Kolo and the two looked very impressive right up to the Nations Cup. Against Algeria though the defense and goalkeeping looked vulnerable and Eriksson might want to propose some changes. Nevertheless, Bamba remain an strong player and highly likely to partner Kolo.

Guy-Roland Demel (Hamburg, German) – Age 28, Caps 20, Goals 0

A useful defender and although losing out to Bamba over the course of the qualification campaign he’s in with a fight for a first team place.

Gervais Yao Kouassi aka “Gervinho” (Lille, France) – Age 22, Caps 13, Goals 4

Far and away the most exciting talent in the new generation of Ivorian footballers and a useful antitode to those who think Ivorian footballer will drop (a la Senegal) when Drogba and the first generation of Asec academy players go into retirement. He looked superb in the Beijing Olympics alongside Kalou and with the Brazilian-style nickname and the dreadlooks he could attract a lot of attention. Having said that, his goalscoring has tailed off in 2010 after an explosive start to the season in France. He went into the Nations’ cup and the top goalscorer in the French league, but struggled on his return. Even if he’s not in the starting line-up, expect him to get plenty of action in South Africa.

Emmanuel Kone Kouamatien, (FC Curtea Arges, Romania) – Age 23, Caps 12, Goals 0

I remember hearing previous coach Halilhodzic say that Kouamatien had forced his way into the squad but from what I ever saw, he looked like a very poor alternative to the great names in the Ivorian squad. It’ll be a struggle for him to make the last 23.

Steve Gohouri (Wigan Athletic, England) – Age 29, Caps 11, Goals 3

The defender had the good sense to score for Wigan when Eriksson came to watch (an over-head kick no less), but perhaps an unlikely choice for the first XI. His experience in the English Premiership might make him a useful back-up option.

Ismael Tiote Cheik (FC Twente, Holland) – Age 23, Caps 8, Goals 0

Playing under former England coach, Steve McClaren, Tiote won the Dutch title this year and although one of the lower profile players in the squad, he was used a lot in Angola and has a good chance of being at least a substitute in South Africa.

Benjamin Angoua Brou (Valenciennes, France) – Age 23, Caps 7, Goals 1

Not a first choice defender and during qualifying he looked a lot weaker than others fighting for the same position. At best a position on the bench.

Jean-Jacques Gosso Gosso (AS Monaco, France) – Age 27, Caps 6, Goals 0

A regular in the AS Monaco team for the past two years, Gosso Gosso may again make the cut for South Africa, though I wouldn’t expect him to play much football there.

Aristide Benoit Zogbo (Maccabi Netanya FC, Israel) – Age 28, Caps 6, Goals 0

Another option as reserve goalkeeper and a regular reserve goalkeeper.

Seydou Doumbia (Young Boys, Switzerland) – Age 22, Caps 5, Goals 2

It’s not easy fighting for a place in the Ivorian attacking line-up but there’s no doubt that Doumbia is an incredible talent and it’d be great to see him in South Africa. For the last two seasons he’s been the top goalscorer in the Swiss league and statistically one of the most prolific strikers on the planet (50 goals in 63 games for Young Boys). Next season he’s off to CSKA Moscow, and his lack of experience at the highest levels in Europe may cost him dear. So, he may not make the final cut, but it’s not for want of talent; he scored against Germany in a friendly at the end of 2009 and will be certainly in the frame when Drogba retires.

Lassina Traore (Cluj, Romania) – Age 19, Caps 0, Goals 0

The only uncapped player and a surprise call up to the national team, but reports (by his agent?) claim he’s the next Drogba and Arsenal are reportedly interested. Unproven and almost certain not to make the cut, but still good to have the youngster training with the senior squad in Switzerland.

Vincent Angban Atchouailou De Paul (Asec Mimosas, Ivory Coast) – Age 25, Caps 1, Goals 0

The current no. 2 goalkeeper, though he’s looked a bit shaky in the national shirt against Guinea and also at club level. A good chance of making the team, but everyone’s hoping Copa Barry stays fit. One of only two players that actually play in Ivory Coast.

Daniel Techi Yeboah (Asec Mimosas, Ivory Coast) – Age 26, Caps 4, Goals 0

Awarded the title of best goalkeeper in the Ivorian league last year, he’s currently second choice at Asec to Angban. A decent goalkeeper but hasn’t played for Ivory Coast since making a mistake against South Africa in Polokwane aged 19, which cost the team qualification for the 2004 Nations’ cup. Such things apparently take a long time to forgive, so perhaps unlikely to make the cut though at least Eriksson is having a look.

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