Ivory Coast will reign supreme – Toure

2012-01-13 09:18

African Footballer of the Year Yaya Toure says the time has come for 2012 Africa Cup of Nations co-favourites Ivory Coast to match talk with trophies.

After losing on penalties to hosts Egypt in the 2006 final, the Elephants were hot favourites in the next two championships only to “choke” in the knockout stages.

An overconfident team crumbled 4-1 to Egypt in the 2008 semi-finals and the Ivorians conceded a last-minute equaliser against Algeria in the quarter-finals two years later before losing after extra time.

A couple of years later and Ivory Coast once again find themselves hoisted to the top of the favourites’ chart beside Ghana and Manchester City star Toure believes this time there will be no slip up.

“This is the third time that people say we are favourites so I think 2012 will be the year of Ivory Coast,” said the man who beat fellow midfielders Seydou Keita of Mali and Andre Ayew of Ghana for the CAF individual award.

“We have such a fantastic squad and I think we have a chance of going far,” said Toure, who missed the FA Cup loss to city rivals United last weekend because it came a day after the Ivorians assembled in Paris.

“After the losses we have had at the Cup of Nations, I believe the squad now has the experience and right mentality,” he added at the launch of the kit the team will wear in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea this month.

It can only help 1992 champions Ivory Coast that they will play all their Group B games at the 15,000-seat Neuvo Estadio Malabo in the Equatoguinean capital against Sudan (January 22), Burkina Faso (26) and Angola (30).

Maximum points is a realistic goal although the Ivorians will tread warily against neighbours Burkina Faso as they were held 0-0 by them in Angola two years ago.

“They have a fantastic team,” Toure said of a nation who were confirmed as participants only this week when a Namibian legal bid to have them kicked out failed.

Assuming Ivory Coast finish first, Zambia or Libya loom as likely last-eight opponents for a country that has made 18 appearances and won 29 and lost 25 of 71 matches with a 103-85 goal tally.

Boubacar Barry is the probable first-choice goalkeeper behind a rearguard that could include Siaka Tiene, Kolo Toure, an older brother of Yaya, Arthur Boka and Emmanuel Eboue.

Add midfielders Yaya Toure, Cheik Tiote, Didier Zokora and Gervinho and strikers Salomon Kalou and captain Didier Drogba and it is no surprise that Ivory Coast are considered one of the teams to beat.

The key to success could be attitude with coach and former professional Francois Zahoui warning that a lack of respect for opponents has cost the Elephants dearly before.

“People say Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa have not qualified so Ivory Coast must be super title favourites while forgetting about other strong teams like Ghana and Senegal,” he said.

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