Many’s favourites for the competition, Cote D’Ivoire boast a squad packed with stars from some of the world’s biggest teams, but until now have disappointed at the African Cup of Nations. Is Herve Renard the man to break their ongoing duck? many seem to think so, that he will provide the missing ingredient which has seen the Elephants disappoint on so many occasions on the African stage. They are not without a title though, their single championship was way back in 1982 though, where they defeated Ghana in an epic penalty shoot-out in the final hosted by Senegal. Since then two runners-up spots and four 3rd place spots have been gained, each time heaping on the disappointment, but once again expectancy is high.
In the last two competitions, the Ivorians have lost to the eventual champions, Nigeria and Zambia and have left leaving the impression they have lacked the required nerve in the big games. With such an incredible array of stars at their disposal it is surprising to say the least that they have not been more successful in the Cup of Nations. They also have the experience of three consecutive World Cup appearances in their locker though each time they were unable to reach the knockout phase. The 2006 and 2010 editions placed them in two incredibly difficult groups, their best chance of proceeding coming last year in Brazil, but a heart-breaking injury time penalty given away against Greece was to halt their progress, with their place in the Second Round all but booked.
Having now sealed his move from Swansea City to Manchester City, Wilfried Bony will be the Ivorians main threat up front. Incredibly strong on the ball and with a goal-scoring record that made him the top score in the English premier League for the 2014 calendar year, he will surely continue to terrorise defences in Equatorial Guinea. He is backed up by Gervinho, a new player since his move away from Arsenal to Roma who, like Bony netted twice in the World Cup last year, making the legend that is Didier Drogba’s international retirement less of a worry for Renard. Elsewhere there are an embarrassment of riches to choose from in midfield where captain Yaya Toure will once again, surely run the show. The worry for Renard will come with the side’s defensive frailties, brought to light somewhat in the qualification round. The Elephants were only able to keep one clean sheet, in a draw with Cameroon, and conceded four goals on two separate occasions.
It’s difficult to see past Cote D’Ivoire finally being successful in Equatorial Guinea. With the outstanding record that Herve Renard has in this competition (he oversaw Zambia’s incredible victory over the Ivorians in the 2012 final) he may just be the key to their inability to see out the big games. As previously mentioned, the defence is where the concern lies, but with the attacking talent they have the ability is always there to outscore any opposition. The way the draw has panned out means, should they make it, the Quarter-Final and Semi-Final games will be possibly the biggest tests for Cote D’Ivoire. Personally, I see the pain continuing for them, leaving this tournament without the title once again, though I see the team that knocks them out becoming the eventual champions as per the last two Cup of Nations, though I will not be at all surprised if this prediction turns out to be completely wrong!