One of the key narratives to emerge from the 2013 Cup of Nations was the deterioration and the capitulation of the Ivory Coast and their much-heralded Golden Generation. The team has been afforded a decade of opportunities to right the injustices and inelegant exits of tournaments past, but have failed at every attempt…their latest elimination coming at the hands of eventual champions Nigeria.
With many of the squad now approaching the twilight of their careers, perhaps the time has come for an overhaul of the team, and an injection of fresh blood. It might be argued, that with another opportunity spurned, this renovation is needed in order for the team to advance once more.
This article considers five players who may well be part of the new breed of Ivorians, the men who will right the wrongs of their forefathers and lead the Elephants to glory. As one Ivorian Generation comes to its termination, another is ready to rise from the ashes.
A recent inclusion in my list of 10 Up-and-Coming African players, I argued that the giant Anzhi striker could be one of the ‘new heroes’ that Ivorian fans will turn to following the inevitable dissipation of the Golden Generation.
His height and presence are clearly his primary weapons, but the player possesses the touch and agility of a more compact athlete. Having moved to Russia in a deal worth 18 million euros, the suggestions are that the Ivorian is flourishing alongside the moneyed company he enjoys in Dagestan. Clearly working day-in day-out with African icon Samuel Eto’o can only work wonders for the youngster’s game.
With Didier Drogba’s irrepressible presence soon to be forever a memory for the Elephants, Traore may be ready-made to step into the breach.
He is the youngest and most inexperienced of the players profiled here, but arguably, the most exciting.
I was reminded recently, by friend of Bleacher Sean Mescall, of Coulibaly’s extraordinary scoring record at the U17 World Cup. The Spurs striker equaled, if not broke, a record previously held by Florent Sinama-Pongolle, by scoring nine goals in the tournament. What makes the feat all the more impressive, however, is that the goals came across only four games.
After being born in Abidjan and moving to Italy as a teenager, Coulibaly was picked up by Siena. London giants Tottenham Hotspur soon got wind of this prodigal young striker and snapped him up in the summer of 2011.
Yet to break into the Spurs’ first team, the striker has once again returned to Italy on loan—a spell which might see him get the playing time he requires.
Once heralded as the ‘New Didier Drogba’ by Bleacher writer Salvatore Landolina, I think there are other players with whom he is more conveniently comparable. Watch out for some delicious finishing, explosive bursts of pace, and excellent agility and technique. It could be something special!
I recently profiled Wilfried Bony who could have made a big impact at the Cup of Nations. Unfortunately, my prediction didn’t come true, and Bony failed to make an impression.
In fairness, opportunities were few and far between, and when he did finally start—against Algeria in the Elephants’ final group game, he netted the side’s equalizer with less than 10 minutes to play.
However, with the Golden Generation gently slipping away from the fold, spaces may emerge for Bony to grasp his chance in the near future.
Before the Cup, I wrote this of Bony:
With 30 goals in under 50 games for Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem to date, Bony has been drowning in goals in Holland. Whilst the odd cynical observer may roll out the oft-quoted adage ‘anyone can score in the Dutch league’, this is not a Mateja Kezman we are talking about here. You get the feeling Bony would score wherever he travelled.
I get the impression he will be scoring much more regularly for the Elephants in the near future.
While Yaya Toure certainly isn’t on the wane—actually emerging from the Cup of Nations with some credit, it seems he has a young protégée, straining at the leash to join him in the Ivory Coast and Manchester City midfield.
Perhaps a surprise inclusion to the Elephants’ Afcon squad, Abdul Razak has shown enough in a handful of international performances so far to suggest that he may well have a long career with the national side.
A product of the famed ASEC academy, Razak initially began to forge his career with Crystal Palace before moving to City in 2010. Initial seasons in the North-West saw Roberto Mancini loaning the player out, toughening him up with stints at Portsmouth, Brighton, and Charlton. This season, the youngster has remained at City, suggesting that the boss is ready to involve him more in the first team.
The Bouaké-born star offers an impressive presence in the middle of the park, as well as pace and power. He is an exciting prospect for Ivorian fans.
Unlucky to miss out on the Ivory Coast’s Afcon squad, the 25-year-old may currently appear to sit behind Lacina Traore and Wilfried Bony in the pecking order for the CIV. But with the aged Golden Generation likely to be relieved of their duties in the near future, Doumbia may well be primed to assume a key striking position for the national side.
However, to suggest that his international form has been patchy to date may well be an understatement. Despite netting 50 goals in 64 starts for Young Boys, and then approaching those verdant levels in Moscow with 35 in 54 starts, Doumbia’s international return of 1 goal in 19 games is unlikely to win many admirers back home.
Still, as someone pointed out to me recently, several of the world’s finest strikers were late-bloomers, at 25, time is still on Doumbia’s side. Another theory is that he relishes being the lead-man in a team; and whilst he can feed off the work of a whole team at club level, too often with the Elephants, he is one of the supporting cast attempting to provide for one of the nation’s stars.
A renovation of the squad and an influx of new blood may give Doumbia the opportunity to cast himself as the lead man for country, as well as club.