World Cup profile: Yaya Toure, Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast boast a squad full of power and talent that can intimidate any opposition they face, Jonathan Nightingale writes, but it is Manchester City’s Yaya Toure who stands out.
Despite injury this year Toure had the Premier League in awe at times - powerful frame showing all the grace and elegance of the most gifted footballers around, almost unexpectedly. He is perhaps at his best when embarking on one of his trademark runs. Toure’s ability to carry the ball from deep and glide past defenders is invaluable, drawing the pressure off his side’s defence and pressing higher up the pitch.
Usually gallops forward deliver an end product. Toure not only has the ability to find a pass or travel with the ball, but he can finish with the best of them - the midfielder scored 20 league goals last season, more than overall club top scorer Sergio Aguero. Toure had a total of 64 shots in the league and also provided nine assists, confirming him as one of City’s stand out players this season.
Not only a powerful attacking midfielder, Toure can operate as a formidable defensive midfielder or is equally adapt to playing as a centre-back when required, most notably in Barcelona’s 2009 Champions League final win over Manchester United.
This season has also seen the emergence of what is another talent in the Ivorian’s locker. Toure’s first goal this term came from a direct free kick as he guided the ball into the far corner of the Newcastle United net. He claimed four free kicks in his first seven goals of the season, each one effortless and yet impressive.
Even with the likes of Aguero, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Stevan Jovetic, who are all technically brilliant, none scored with the natural and definitive touch of Toure.
Toure made his debut for his country back in 2004 and has since played a pivotal role in the national side. He helped Les Elephants qualify for their first ever World Cup finals appearance back in 2006 and again for the 2010 finals, playing every game as they were eliminated at the group stages.
The athletic midfielder has also represented Ivory Coast at five African Cup of Nations tournaments - finishing twice as a runner up in 2006 and 2012, while also being named player of the tournament for the 2008 and 2012 competitions.
Unfortunately for Toure, his World Cup could be overshadowed by the continued speculation surrounding his future. Toure recently voiced his displeasure at Manchester City after they didn’t offer great enough congratulations on his birthday, leaving an unpleasant taste in the mouth of the player.
While he will be focussed on taking his country beyond the group stages at the third time of asking it will be tough to ignore the speculation any impressive performances may bring with the uncertainty of his position at the Etihad Stadium.
Keep an eye out for:
Jackson Martinez - Columbia: With Radamel Falcao out of the World Cup much of the goal scoring responsibility for his country will fall at Martinez’s feet. However he is a man in form this season after setting the Portuguese league alight with Porto.
He netted 26 goals in 40 appearances, averaging over a goal every two games, in his first year at the club. Last season was the same - scoring 28 goals in just 32 appearances domestically, an astonishing record that marks him as one of the main goal threats of the tournament with the right service.
Konstantinos Mitroglou - Greece: A man who will want to leave his wretched club form behind, Mitroglou perhaps carries the nation’s hopes on his shoulders. It really depends however on which player we see in Brazil this summer.
Before the turn of the year the striker had earned himself the nickname ‘Mitrogoal,’ having scored 23 goals in 23 games for Greek side Olympiakos and his country. However, he has had an injury plagued 2014 and been branded a big money flop after signing for Fulham for £12m, and playing just 120 minutes of football in total.
Yashuito Endo - Japan: While many believe the Blue Samurai will rely on Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda, they have an unsung hero in Yahito Endo. The cult hero has played for his country a record 144 times - and counting.
Endo is revered in Japan for his passing ability and leadership on the pitch, and considered their biggest threat from direct free kicks. He featured in 10 straight J League teams of the year from 2003 to 2012, showing remarkable consistency and composure on the ball. The No.7 will be hoping to marshal Japan further then the last 16 in their fifth straight World Cup appearance.
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