Ivory Coast Camp Focus – Eriksson names attack-minded final World Cup squad

Ivory Coast Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson named his final 23-man squad for South Africa this week, with West Bromwich Albion central defender Abdoulaye Meite a surprise omission. Meite, with 48 caps for his country since his debut in 2003 and a key player in his club’s promotion to the Premier League this season, may have expected to make the Elephants’ plane to the World Cup.

However he failed to make the cut along with goalkeeper Vincent Angban, strikers Bakary Kone and Kanga Akale and midfielders Emerse Fae, Gilles Yapi Yapo and Traore Lacina. With only a two-week training camp and Sunday’s friendly with Paraguay to assess his players together after taking over in March, the new Head Coach would have had a difficult task to cut his original 30-man squad.

The Swede’s decision to include six forwards could prove a bold one, with Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou high priorities on the squad list. They will lead the attack with Seydou Doumbia whose 50 goals in 64 games for Swiss club Young Boys earned him a reported £12.5m move to Russian big spenders CSKA Moscow in January and Aruna Dindane, who spent last season on loan at relegated Portsmouth also included in Eriksson’s squad. Also catching the attention of their new boss, 23-year-old Gervinho has been linked to the Premier League after an eye-catching season in the French top division with Lille and Emmanuel Kone from Romania’s CFR Cluj complete a promising selection of forwards for Ivory Coast.

Eriksson included a strong representation from Premier League defences in his selection, as Arsenal’s Emmanuel Eboue, Wigan Athletic’s Steven Gohouri and Manchester City’s Kolo Toure will compete for starting positions at the back. A midfield highly competitive and physically powerful includes captain Didier Zokora, formerly of Tottenham and now plying his trade in Spain with Sevilla. Expected to start alongside him would be Barcelona’s Yaya Toure, on the back of another title-winning season. The powerful midfielder has been subject to early summer speculation around a move away from the Nou Camp, with high competition likely for his signature.

For many of those axed from Eriksson’s squad, their experience will differ from four years ago in Germany. Meite started two of the Elephants’ group stage matches, 2-1 defeats to Argentina and Netherlands respectively, with former Marseille striker Kone finding the net against the Dutch. Yapo, Fae and Akale all participated during the tournament under former boss Henri Michel.

After watching his side throw away a two-goal advantage against Paraguay in his first competitive match in charge, Eriksson contemplated his side’s efforts: “I want to see a team which plays with each other and works as a unit. For one hour we did that. That’s very, very important.” With Drogba’s deflected free-kick and Sol Bamba’s volleyed strike putting Ivory Coast in control, the Swede admitted his disappointment at their failure to close the match out, late goals from Lucas Barrios and a chaotic deflected free-kick from Aureliano Torres cancelling out the advantage. However, the former England tactician insisted they would improve before the start of the tournament, with a final friendly against Japan on Friday prior to heading to Port Elizabeth for their opening Group G match with Portugal on June 15.

“We lost our organisation, we tried to run and finish individually. We have to play better, but we will play better.” Eriksson, of course, sprung a surprise as England Head Coach in 2006 when he named Arsenal’s uncapped 17-year-old Theo Walcott in his final squad for the World Cup in Germany. Four years later, the Coach is making less headlines with his new national side’s squad announcement, while for the player the back pages beckon with Walcott’s surprise omission this time from the England squad decided by Fabio Capello. How times change.

Final 23-man Ivory Coast squad

Goalkeepers
Boubacar Barry (Lokeren)
Daniel Yeboah (ASEC Mimosas)
Aristide Zogbo (Maccabi Netanya)

Defenders
Sol Bamba (Hibernian)
Arthur Boka (Stuttgart)
Emmanuel Eboue (Arsenal)
Siaka Tiene (Valenciennes)
Kolo Toure (Manchester City)
Guy Demel (Hamburg)
Steve Gohouri (Wigan)
Benjamin Angoua (Valenciennes)

Midfielders
Didier Zokora (Seville)
Romaric (Seville)
Cheick Tiote (FC Twente)
Yaya Toure (Barcelona)
Jean-Jacques Gosso (Monaco)
Abdel Kader Keita (Galatasaray)

Forwards
Aruna Dindane (Lekhwiya)
Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow)
Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
Salomon Kalou (Chelsea)
Gervinho (Lille)
Emmanuel Kone (CFR Cluj)

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