If any team from Africa has a shot at claiming the Cup, Les Elephants is that squad.
Country: Côte d’Ivoire
Team: Les Elephants
Colors: Orange, green and white
Côte d’Ivoire is arguably the best African team in the 2010 World Cup, with a plethora of talented footballers, despite the small size of the country (estimated population 21 million).
Often compared to a puma (Puma the company is one of their sponsors), Les Elephants have speed, agility, strength and flair, all of which help them pounce on opponents. Befitting an elephant’s memory, they still feel the pain of their early exit from the ’06 World Cup. This time around, the team has experience, depth and a home field advantage (sort of).
It will be an uphill battle, but if Côte d’Ivoire can leap out of the group stage, they’ll be a major threat in the knockout round.
Key Players: Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure and Yaya Toure
Drogba helped unite a nation that fought a civil war earlier in this decade. His knack for finding the back of the net could unite an entire continent. With his lightning quick speed and pinpoint accuracy, Drogba can change the outcome of a match in the blink of an eye. No wonder he scored 37 goals for his club team Chelsea this past year.
When people think about team chemistry, a band of brothers often comes to mind, and Les Elephants have exactly that. Brothers Yaya and Kolo are the team’s top midfielder and defender, and they have an intuitive sense of how to find each other on the pitch. Kolo matches up against any striker in Group G at the center back position. Yaya is a creative-minded midfielder who will try to free Drogba with cleverly placed balls behind opposing defenders.
Key Matchup: Côte d’Ivoire vs. Portugal
This first game will be big. Both teams need points right from the gun. These are two very powerful offensive teams, but Les Elephants’ stronger defense should be able to shut down Ronaldo, Portugal’s one-man wrecking crew.
Les Elephants may not win games by a large margin, but the team should get enough points to finally advance into the knockout stage, sliding by Brazil in the goal differential column.
Related link: World Cup 2010 Countdown