To get you ready for the drama that will start unfolding on June 11 in South Africa, The Star and The Full 90 will introduce you to the teams, the key performers, what to look for and what to expect in this year's Cup.Time for the team that's been the most snake-bitten in the run-up to the Cup.
Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)Group G THE BASICS
Orange, Green and White
•How They Got Here:
Didn't lose a game in their African qualifying group, only drew one time
•World Cup Pedigree:
1 World Cup ('06), lost in the first roundTHE PLOT
Can the mightiest and most imposing African team endure the dual setback of playing in the Group of Very Difficult and losing their star player a week before the tournamentTHE DIRECTOR
Sven Goran Eriksson
The Swede has had a long and luxurious career as a club manager, with clubs like Benfica, Lazio, Fiorentina and Roma. It's his career as an international boss that's been lacking. He is the source of ridicule in both England and Mexico. With England, he failed to take them to the promised land in 2006. In Mexico, he had to be fired just so El Tri could get to the World Cup. He's had all of two games as the boss for Ivory Coast.LEADING MAN
Reports are contradicting themselves. This much is true: The Chelsea striker broke his arm in a friendly against Japan on Friday. He told a teammate he was going to miss the Cup. Eriksson says there's a chance he'll play. Here's the reality: If Drogba plays, the ceiling for Cote d'Ivoire is very, very high. If he misses out, this team goes home in the first round. He also might be the one player in this tournament that means as much to his country off the field as he does on.SUPPORTING CAST
(forward/winger, Chelsea) will be the primary goal scoring threat if Drogba is out;Abdul Kader Keita
(midfielder, Galatasaray) is the owner of my favorite name in the entire World Cup;Gervais Yao "Gervinho" Kouassi
(winger/forward, Lille) was the 2007 captain for Ivory Coast's Olympic team and has been linked to a move to Arsenal;Emmanuel Eboue
(defender, Arsenal) is a strong and fast player with the ability to terrorize opponent's left wing;Kolo Toure
(defender, Manchester City) is an imposing and commanding central back known for his strong tackling;Yaya Toure
(midfielder, Barcelona) is Kolo's younger brother and is the holding midfielder for Barcelona and Ivory Coast.LIKELY BREAKOUT STAR
The Young Boys (Switzerland) striker is a prolific scorer, finding the back of the net 30 times in 29 appearance in 2009-10. Before Drogba went down injured, he was likely to see only time as a substitute. Now, he's probably moving into the starting lineup. If he does well, expect some larger teams to start sniffing around him in the transfer market.THE LIKELY VILLAIN
The goalkeeper is the weakest link (by far) of the Ivorian team. He's often described as "error prone" and it's essential that he have a good game against Brazil and Portugal. Essential.PRODUCTION NOTES
Eriksson is a 4-4-2 devotee, and will likely put his team together in that formation. It doesn't really suit the squad, as they've got fast wingers and would be great in a 4-3-3. But with Drogba up top, they will always be a tough team to break down.WHAT THEY'LL WEAR
IT'S SORTA LIKE...
Could've been a legendary movie, if only it weren't ruined by the worst director in modern memory. With Drogba, the Ivory Coast should be title contenders. With Sven Goran Eriksson in charge, they'll likely go home in the second round... or earlier.TRAILER
Here's what Les Elephants can do against a good team.DO WHAT YOU WILL WITH THIS...
The world's largest Catholic cathedral is in Cote d'Ivoire... not Brazil or Italy.CRITICAL BLURBS
In any other group (Drogba or no Drogba), this team is capable of a second-round appearance at least. ... Compact and organized teams (like North Korea) are likely to give this team fits. More creative, speed-based teams (like Brazil) might not. ... If they can nip a result against either Portugal or Brazil, this is a team that no one will want to face in the knockout stage. They can score, they can defend and they can play physically. Could be Spain's worst nightmare. ... At some point in this tournament, Eriksson will be badly out-coached. Ivorians will have to hope it comes early and not later. ...Best-case scenario?
With Drogba, this team was a semi-finals dark horse. Without him, the round of 16 might be the limit. ...Realistic prediction?
Finishing third in the group behind Brazil and Portugal.POSSIBLE HOLLYWOOD MOMENT
Remember Willis Reed? This would be just like Willis Reed times a thousand. Final game of the group stage. The Ivorians have already beaten Portugal and lost to Brazil, and now need to beat North Korea and hope Brazil beats Portugal to advance. At halftime, Eriksson makes precisely one change to a lineup that's leading the Koreans 1-0. That change? Didier Drogba, with his arm in a cast. He's asked to come on and help put this game away, again stepping up to help his country. He scores a magnificent header 20 minutes on. Brazil polishes off Portugal minutes later. It's the last game Drogba plays in the tournament.
Group A: South Africa
Group B: South Korea
Group C: Algeria
Group D: Serbia
Group E: Japan
Group F: New Zealand
Group G: North Korea
, Ivory Coast,Portugal
Honduras, Chile, Switzerland, Spain
Sources: World Cup 2010 (by Steven D. Stark and Harrison Stark); ESPN and Soccernet.com; FIFA; CIA Factbook