Today our focus turns to Group C, where continental giants Ivory Coast will look to fly the African flag in Brazil.
Having exited the group stages in their only two previous World Cup appearances, Ivory Coast will feel that this year is their big chance to go one better. Yet in a group with no relative world heavyweights (compared to group adversaries Argentina and Netherlands in 2006 and Brazil and Portugal in 2010), the Elephants know they must have the utmost respect for opponents Colombia, Greece and Japan if they want to see themselves in the latter stages of the tournament.
Qualification: W 5, D 3, L 0
Previous World Cup appearances: 2
Best World Cup finish: Group stages (2006, 2010)
Current FIFA ranking: 23
Coach: Former French international Sabri Lamouchi was a surprise appointment as coach of the Ivorian team, having never coached at club or national level before. The 42-year-old went undefeated in his first 12 games in charge since taking over in May 2012, and is hoping for a good run in his maiden World Cup.
Captain and Key player: Powerful Ivorian striker Didier Drogba has menaced defenders the world over, and will be aiming to do just that in what will probably be his last World Cup.
At 36, Drogba is still playing at the highest level in Europe, turning out for Turkish club Galatasaray who he helped lead to the Last 16 of this year’s Champions League.
A towering figure leading the line for both club and country, the former Chelsea striker is known for his physical strength, holding up play and ability to out-jump opponents when challenging for the aerial ball.
Still regarded as one of the best centre-forwards in the game, the robust frontman is comfortable with the ball at both feet, constantly harassing defenders while bustling in and around the 18-yard area. He is not too bad at free kicks either, possessing a powerful and accurate boot in his endless armoury.
Having made his debut for the Elephants in 2002, Drogba has been skipper for the past eight years, leading his team to the 2010 World Cup and scoring the country’s first-ever goal at the world showpiece. The two-time African Footballer of the Year is also Ivory Coast’s all-time top goal-scorer, and no doubt he will be looking to add to his tally in Brazil.
Key fixture: Ivory Coast’s last group fixture against Greece could determine their fate for the remainder of the tournament.
15 June, 03:00 Ivory Coast vs Japan
19 June, 18:00 Colombia vs Ivory Coast
24 June, 22:00 Greece vs Ivory Coast
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