The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations gets underway this weekend with Ivory Coast firm favourites to win the tournament won in 1992. Under the leadership of captain Didier Drogba, the Elephants are expected not only to claim their second Afcon title but also do it in style.
Last year Drogba was in apathetic mood after seeing his place taken in the Chelsea side and with no real career left in the game. He managed three goals in the 2012 tournament to finish joint-top scorer with six others, had an uneventful final appearance against Zambia and – although he scored his spot kick – was unable to prevent Ivory Coast losing 8-7 in the shoot out.
This season has been different, however, and after Drogba’s heroics for Chelsea in the Champions League he has found a new lease of life.
And so have Ivory Coast. They qualified for the tournament with an emphatic 6-2 aggregate victory over Senegal – although the second match had to be abandoned with 15 minutes to go due to crowd trouble. Drogba scored three of the Elephant’s six goals – two from the penalty spot – and was clearly head above the rest despite his club ignominy in China.
Ivory Coast have a real chance to pick up early form in Group D. First up is a clash with Togo on 22 January before a tie with Tunisia four days later. Drogba and co. should have no difficulty with these two fixtures and will head into their ultimate game with Algeria already on six points.
Winning this tournament is key to Ivory Coast’s aspirations of making at least the semi-finals of Brazil 2014 and with Drogba and Toure in their arsenal there are few teams to stop them. Only Ghana have a genuine chance of beating the Elephants in South Africa this winter, a clash already expected for the final.