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Tough group again awaits Ivory Coast at World Cup

Tough group again awaits Ivory Coast at World Cup

Ivory Coast will be desperate to pay back its demanding fans for a poor showing at the African Cup of Nations with a strong performance at the World Cup in South Africa.
The only problem is that, just like four years ago, Ivory Coast has one of the hardest draws imaginable, and to reach the second round for the first time in its history it must finish ahead of either five-time champion Brazil or Portugal. North Korea, playing in the World Cup for the first time since 1966, is Group G's other team.
At the 2006 World Cup, Ivory Coast played solid football but went home empty-handed, eliminated from another tough group containing two-time World Cup winner Argentina and the Netherlands. The Ivorians narrowly lost both games 2-1, and beat Serbia and Montenegro 3-2.
The odds are stacked even further against Ivory Coast this time because of the inner turmoil within the squad following the team's 3-2 loss to Algeria in the African Cup of Nations quarterfinals in January.
Then-Ivory Coast coach Vahid Halilhodzic took the brunt of the blame for the team's defeat, but he has left in favor of former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Didier Drogba, the team's best player, is closing in on 50 goals for his country and _ being the showman that he is _ would love to reach that milestone on the world's biggest stage.
The problem for Drogba's team, aside from the occasional unrest within the squad, is defending. Ivory Coast has a tendency to concede soft goals, just like it did against Algeria when it failed to hold a lead with only minutes remaining and lost in extra time.
It also conceded six goals in three games at the 2006 World Cup. A similar average this time means it would need to score three goals to beat Brazil or Portugal _ a tall order.
Goalkeeper Boubacar Barry plays in the Belgian league for struggling club Lokeren, meaning he is rarely exposed to the intensity of competition at the highest level like Drogba, highlighting how the undoubted talent within the squad is weighed down by inexperience.


Updated : 2021-08-06 03:06 GMT+08:00