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World Cup 2006 Preview - Ivory Coast

Outright Odds: 80/1 Group C Winners: 9/1 The Ivory Coast topped their qualifying group but the margins between success and failure were so intense it came down to a single penalty kick with just four minutes of qualification remaining. In the penultimate qualifying match, the Ivorians needed a victory against Cameroon to ensure qualification, but they lost 3-2 in Abidjan. Their subsequent 3-1 away win at Sudan would be meaningless if World Cup mainstays Cameroon beat Egypt. The match was all square at 1-1 until Cameroon were awarded a penalty four minutes into injury time. A successful spot kick would send them through but Pierre Wome hit the outside of the post and the Ivory Coast were heading to Germany. The Ivory Coast are arguably the strongest African side participating in the finals, with Cameroon, Nigeria, Morocco and Senegal all failing to qualify.

However, they are also pitted in the toughest group and will need to be at their best against traditional favourites such as Argentina and Holland. Chelsea striker Didier Drogba leads the front line and contributed nine goals as his country qualified for the first time in eight attempts. Arsenal defender Kolo Toure is the most recognisable defender but the team oozes quality from players mainly plying their trade in France. Partnering Drogba in attack is Lens forward Aruna Dindane while playmaker Bonaventure Kalou, from Paris St Germain and St. Ettiene’s Didier Zakora are all capable of making an impact.

In defence Toure is joined by Abdoulaye Meite from Marseille, Strasbourg’s Etienne Boka and veteran Cyrille Domoraud, now playing for Creteil. Being placed in such a tough qualifying group, the Ivorians will benefit greatly from having a coach of Henri Michel’s stature. The vastly experienced coach is in charge of his sixth national team following stints at France, Cameroon, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. With twenty years experience to call upon, he will ensure Drogba and co. are fully prepared for the task ahead. While the team are strong in most areas, they are also probe to a lack of concentration. This was highlighted in their qualifier against Cameroon which could have seen them miss out on a place in the finals. There are also doubts raised on their ability to play away from home after qualifying defeats to Egypt and Cameroon and a goalless draw with Libya. Recommended Bet: Senegal burst onto the international scene four years ago when they beat an under-par France 1-0 in the opening game so the Ivory Coast could possibly do the same. If they could do the unthinkable and beat either Argentina or Holland, a point in their final match against Serbia & Montenegro could see them through to the last 16.

Ivory Coast vs Serbia & Montenegro draw @ 5/2.


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