2010 World Cup: Why Cote D'Ivoire Could Spring a Surprise

illya mclellan@illya mclellan @illbehaviorNZSenior Analyst IMay 17, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 03:  The Ivory Coast team pose for a photo ahead of the International Friendly match between Ivory Coast and Republic of Korea played at Loftus Road on March 3, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)
Hamish Blair/Getty Images

As the world tournament draws ever closer, there are teams that are often spoken about when people think of potential cup winners, typically the quadrennial favorite's such as Brazil, Italy, Germany, Argentina, and to a lesser extent France, Spain, the Netherlands, and England.

In the last 10 world cups, there have been five different nations that have taken the trophy. Argentina have won twice, as have West Germany, Brazil has the most with three trophies, Italy also have two, while France has just one. Broken up continentally, this shows that South America have five tournaments against Europe's five.

No other continent has provided a winning team besides these two, from approximately 200 nations on seven continents that enter the tournament every qualifying round.

Interestingly enough, in 18 previous tournaments, the cup has been won by a nation playing on its own continent in 13 of them. This reminds instantly of the boost players get in front of familiar support. The five that were won truly abroad in a foreign continent, the only true international ones were Brazil's victory in Sweden in 1958 and their victory in Japan-Korea in 2002.

The others were all in the greater American continent; Brazil with two, one in Mexico 1970 and one in the US in 1994. Argentina have the other counted as foreign in Mexico as well, in 1986.

This goes further to show the advantage of playing near home.

With six African teams in the cup in South Africa, it could possibly be time to keep a watchful eye on the performances of these sides. Packed full of talent from leagues across the globe, several of these teams will present serious questions to the old guard of World Cup football.

It is the Ivory Coast that I am focusing on today, as they are one such team with a wealth of talent. The players feature in in top leagues across seventeen countries.

Probably the most well known of these players are Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure. Both part of champion squads in their club teams this year. Along with these notables are Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue, Arouna Kone, Abdul Kader Keita, Solomon Kalou, Aruna Dindane, Romaric, Didier Zokora, Guy Demel, and Boubacar Barry. All are fairly familiar names in the world of football.

After a particularly disappointing African Cup of Nations, in which they failed to fire, going out in the quarters, the Cote d'Ivoire football association sacked their coach Vahid Halilhodzic despite his exemplary record with the team in having only lost one game in his two-year stint at the helm. Clearly a ridiculous sacking and one that reeks of the fallout of the modern professional game and its win at all costs attitude.

This is all done and dusted though. It is now Sven Goran-Eriksson as boss, and you have to fancy the Swede's chances as he is no slouch when it comes to his managerial record. After all, he has won 22 trophies in four different countries, including Italy for nine of those successes.

His tenure at Manchester City, coming after he finished the England national team job, restored the club to prominence, leading the league for a time and also defeating Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United twice.

He was harshly sacked by Thaksin Sinawatra, after this season, despite the club having played some of its best football in years. So he will identify with his predecessor Halilhodzic in that they were both treated badly after beginning the job of fashioning a team into a truly formidable unit. 

Goran-Eriksson is worthy of respect, despite what some England fans would say. He has a proven record of excellence and could possibly be the man to lead Ivory Coast to glory.

It seems that Cote d'Ivoire have the ingredients for success.

Obviously, Dider Drogba and Yaya Toure will be vital. Both have had excellent seasons with their respective teams.

With Barcelona, Toure has just won the Spanish La Liga in consecutive seasons. Drogba has just won his third Premier League title with Chelsea and also scored the winner in the FA Cup final, which brought the London side its first ever domestic double.

Drogba is bordering on being the perfect striker. The only thing that really holds him back is his petulance. Known to engage in fits of sulking that can last entire matches.

Luckily his age has cured him of this and it has become less apparent in the last season, despite it popping up against Wigan, in the championship defining match, when Drogba wanted to take a first half penalty that was duly dispatched by Frank Lampard, Chelsea's designated spot kick taker.

He showed that he has improved excellently in the area of his attitude when he came out in the second half and scored a hat trick.

A truly dangerous opponent, Drogba is able to hit excellent free kicks, thunderous shots from distance, deftly placed flicks from close in, and his heading is technically superior to most players in the world game.

If Drogba is able to combine with Toure in the way that Toure has combined with Argentina star Lionel Messi at Barcelona, then North Korea, Portugal, and Brazil could well be in for a nasty surprise each. Toure demonstrated his excellent abilities as a provider in the penultimate match of La Liga when he laid on two goals for his Argentinian teammate, goals which confirmed Barcelona's league success.

Toure is an extremely gifted midfielder, his large frame disguising trickery and guile that are normally the preserve of those who are smaller in stature. Along with the technique he has excellent strength, pace, and vision. He is one of the reasons for Barcelona's success, and a vital part of Pep Guardiola's squad.

Add to this the talents of the many other stars from around Europe and the managerial nous of Goran-Eriksson, and you have a recipe that could mix up a tasty treat for African football fans everywhere.

Perhaps they could be the winner of the first African football World Cup. Nothing is decided before the tournament.