Didier Drogba may be this team’s undisputed star and leader, but make no mistake about who the finest player on this team is. Since coming over from Barcelona in 2010, Touré has continued his climb to becoming one of the best midfielders in the game. In a banner year for City, he showed his uncanny versatility, defending unimpeachably and scoring buckets of goals while setting up almost just as many.
Getty ImagesMike Hewitt
Drogba carried his war-torn country to a first World Cup berth in 2006 after years of frustrating failures. The journey proved more fulfilling than its culmination after a first-round exit in Germany. The same scenario -- a decent run through the perilous African qualifying process followed by a horrific group stage draw -- unfolded in South Africa four years later. Brazil and Portugal advanced at the Ivorians' expense, despite a final day victory over North Korea.
AFP/Getty ImagesDANIEL GARCIA
The Ivory Coast’s golden generation helped a bleeding country heal after two bloody civil wars. But their time is running out to win something meaningful. Somehow, they never managed to win the Africa Cup of Nations, placing second in 2006 and 2012 and their World Cup record has been just as disappointing. Now comes the last chance. This remains a fabulously talented team. Few countries can boast the attacking riches the Ivory Coast can. There is Drogba, sure. But they have so many more quality forwards in Wilfried Bony, Salomon Kalou, Lacina Traoré, and more. Trouble is, the midfield and defense are a tad thin. Cheick Tioté is a fine complement to Touré, but Didier Zokora has had to move back a line to partner up with the other Touré, Kolo, in central defense. Emmanuel Eboué is hardly reliable at right back and on the left, a rotating cast of candidates has yet to convince.
AFP/Getty ImagesISSOUF SANOGO
How they got here
The initial assignment in Group C posed few problems for the Ivoirians with Gambia, Morocco and Tanzania all dispatched rather easily. Sabri Lamouchi's side entered the playoffs as the top ranked side on the continent and received a tricky tie against Senegal as their scant reward. A comprehensive 3-1 victory in Abidjan ultimately produced a straightforward 4-2 victory on aggregate to seal a third consecutive berth.
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Favorable. Colombia will form a tough opponent and Japan are an underrated team, but Greece shouldn’t present many problems. A good result or two should see the Ivory Coast out of Group C with relative ease.
AFP/Getty ImagesTONY KARUMBA
Round of 16 prospects
Tricky. Group D, which will furnish the Ivory Coast’s opponents in the next round, holds Uruguay, Italy and England. Oh, and Costa Rica. That means a really difficult match-up is fairly well unavoidable. Which isn’t to say that the Elephants will fall.
AFP/Getty ImagesABDELHAK SENNA
Most of the same problems from the first two appearances will hinder the efforts in Brazil. This outfit remains a formidable side with pace and power through midfield and several potent options to lead the line up front. The integral cogs -- Drogba, the Touré brothers and Didier Zokora -- are all now 30 or older, posing questions at the international level. It will fall on the next generation -- led by ex-Chelsea winger Kalou -- to solve the potential issues at the back and supply the necessary support elsewhere. The pieces exist for a run to the quarterfinals in the last stand for the core of this side, but the circumstances may dictate a more hasty departure.