Monday, May 12, 2014

Meet the Team: Côte d'Ivoire

Nickname: It makes sense for a country named for it's natural resource (Ivory) to take their nickname from the source--et violá: Les Éléphants
Didier sees you doubting him

Star: Even though he's 36, even though he's far from his prime, even though he's toiling away at Galatasaray rather than the shining lights of Stamford Bridge, this is still very much the team of Didier Drogba, the giant striker who has towered over Ivorian football for the past decade. Sure the Tourés are still playing in the Premiership, but it's all about Drogba.

Hip-Star: Let the so called "experts" bluster about the heir to Drogba's throne, or dissect the chances of Zokora and Yaya, if Côte d'Ivoire have any hope of getting out of the first round, the person you really want to talk about is the keeper: Boubacar Barry. He has as many Cups under his belt as Drogba and Co, and probably a more intimidating task ahead with Falcao and Honda screeching towards an aging defense.

X-Factor: Like a lot of other teams, the club season will definitely have an effect on the Ivorians, but perhaps even more for them as the bulk of the top stars (Drogba, the Tourés, Zokora, and Barry are all well past 30). Add in the punishing push for the title for some, and the mindnumbing irrelevancy of the lesser Turkish league for others and an old team feels a lot older.
Seriously the happiest
photo I could find of Sabri

Coach: If you like your coaches fresh and unsullied by past failures, you'll like Sabri Lamouchi. He's never lost at a previous coaching large part because he's never had a coaching job before Ivory Coast.

History: For a team that never made the World Cup until 8 years ago, Côte d'Ivoire is certainly making up for lost time. With three straight appearances, including two strong showings in Groups of Death, now that they're finally amongst some less intimidating competition (and some teams that won't lay down and block them out--like Brazil and Portugal did in '10) they may be poised to break through (assuming the aging lions of all three cups don't break down first).

Food: I'm a sucker for fried plantains, and Aloko which combines fried plantains with chili pepper, onions and a little meat is just about too good to be true.

Laurent misses that chair
Fool: Since his arrest by the International Criminal Court, Laurent Gbagbo has been slowly losing his death grip on the title "Biggest Fool/Jerk In Ivorian Politics". There have been few dictatorial affectations by his replacement, Alassane Outtara--but he did veto a law that would have made women equal heads of the look out Laurent, he's gaining!

Best Case: Drogba and Co. remain on point, and Wilfried Bony emerges as the leader of the next generation of talented elephants, as they match rival Ghana's run to the Quarter Finals before bowing out to Brazil.

Worst Case: Drogba and Co break down, and no one else turns up to match their production, and their final run together ends in zero points but millions of tears.

My prediction: The golden generation of Ivory Coast is just about at it's sunset--but still, it's only just about. Even at this age they have enough combined talent and creativity to top their group. Getting past England? That's less certain. Round of 16

Added Bonus: Ready for a social consciousness rapper? How about Rudi Rudiction and "Le Mal du Siecle"

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