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Côte d’Ivoire favourites to be African kings again

Côte d’Ivoire will again be one of the leading favourites to win the 2010 African Nations Cup, as was the case two years ago in Ghana.

However, for all their high ratings, the Elephants have only won the Nations Cup once in 1992 after a penalty kick shootout victory over Ghana. They, along with Nigeria, are therefore one of the big underachievers at this tournament.

The Ivorians though have become a formidable force in the past four years during which time they reached the final of the 2006 Nations Cup in Egypt and qualified for their first-ever World Cup.

Angola 2010 will be their 18th Nations Cup appearance.

In Ghana two years ago, Didier Drogba and company were runaway favourites to win the tournament only for them to be dumped 4-1 in the semi-finals by a rampant Egypt, who would go on to win a record sixth Nations Cup title.

For Angola, the Elephants topped their qualifying group with an impressive 16 points from six matches. This included wins away at closest rivals Burkina Faso and Guinea.

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba has remained the team’s star performer, finding the back of the net on a regular basis for club and country. However, this is by no means a one-man band as his efforts are fully complimented by the likes of Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou, Yaya Toure of Barcelona and Manchester City skipper Kolo Toure.

If there is a problem area in this team, it would be in the goalkeeping department, but even that is proving not to be such a drawback as Lokeren goalkeeper Boubakar Barry has continued to improve.

This West African nation though appear not to have the luck of the draw as they have often been pitched in very difficult groups for major tournaments like the World Cup and Nations Cup.

That is again the case in Angola, where they have to fight their way out of a section that includes fellow West Africans Ghana, Burkina Faso and Togo.

“It’s a tough draw. I can say that the group is the hardest,” admitted coach Vahid Halilhodzic.

“Now, if you take it match after match it’s important in this kind of competition to start with a victory.

“I hope that we start well against Burkina Faso in the first group game. But it will not be easy in this group.”

He continued: “We go to the Nations Cup with great ambition like Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria and even Ghana. We cannot hide. We have great status that must be maintained.

“We must fight to the end. We have to put all the chances on our side to surpass all the obstacles. This is not the time to try to avoid this or that team. You must believe in your chances’

The Elephants have already proved they can be the best in Africa and 2010 could be well be another chance for the country’s Golden Generation to crown their undoubted talents with another Nations Cup trophy.

Whoever underestimates an attack that put away 29 goals in the World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers will only have themselves to blame. – AFP

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