Ivory Coast’s Greatest XI: 2000 – 2020

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Ivory Coast have re-emerged as one of Africa’s pre-eminent international sides since 2000.

A famed golden generation secured a first ever World Cup qualification in 2006, returning in 2010 and 2014, while Les Elephants also reached Africa Cup of Nations finals in 2006 and 2012, before eventually lifting the elusive trophy they had been without since 1992 in 2015.

Here’s a look at the greatest Ivory Coast XI from 2000 to 2020…

Goalkeeper & Defenders

Boubacar Barry (GK): A 35-year-old Barry was no longer a starting goalkeeper by the time of the 2015 AFCON but injury thrust him back into the side. He saved two efforts and scored himself in the decisive final penalty shootout, his last acts before international retirement.

Emmanuel Eboue (RB): Eboue played over 200 times for Arsenal, including 11 games during the club’s run to the Champions League final in 2006 early in his career. He went on to win three Turkish league titles with Galatasaray and was named in seven tournament squads.

Kolo Toure (CB): The elder Toure brother was perhaps the first of Ivory Coast’s golden generation to garner international acclaim. He emerged as a breakout star during Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ side in 2003/04, before later playing for Manchester City and Liverpool.

Eric Bailly (CB): Although yet to fulfil his obvious potential, Bailly still has the attributes to become one of the world’s top centre-backs. His Manchester United career to date has been hampered by injury, yet he has more than 30 international caps and won AFCON in 2015.

Arthur Boka (LB): Like many Ivorian stars, Boka got his route into European football through Belgian club Beveren. He later spent many years in the Bundesliga with Stuttgart sandwiched between spells in Italy and Spain and was a mainstay of the national side for 11 years.

Midfielders

Didier Zokora (CM): A defensive midfielder, Zokora was part of the only Tottenham team in the last 21 years to have won a major trophy, enjoying League Cup success in 2007/08. He also played in France, Spain and Turkey is Les Elephants’ most capped player of all time (123).

Yaya Toure (CM): It is remarkable to think that Toure started the 2009 Champions League final as a makeshift centre-back for Barcelona when he became known at Manchester City as one of the best goalscoring midfielders in the world, peaking in 2013/14 with 24 in all competitions.

Toure also captained the side that won AFCON in 2015.

Cheick Tiote (CM): The late Tiote scored one of the most memorable goals in Premier League history during his Newcastle days, capping off a stunning 4-4 comeback draw with Arsenal. He played 55 times for his country but sadly died aged just 30 in 2017 after a cardiac arrest in training.

Forwards

Salomon Kalou (RF): Having made his name as a rising star of Dutch football with Feyenoord, Kalou joined Chelsea in 2006 and won seven major trophies over the next six years, including the Champions League in 2012.

Didier Drogba (ST): Drogba is easily the greatest Ivorian footballer of all time, a national hero whose impact in the country has been felt far beyond the football pitch. On it, he is Ivory Coast’s all-time leading goalscorer with 65 goals from 101 international appearances.

Drogba was famously a ‘big game player’, scoring nine times in nine cup final appearances for Chelsea, and was the first African to reach 100 Premier League goals.

Gervinho (LF): When Eden Hazard joined Chelsea in 2012, he remarked that Gervinho was the best player he had played with. The winger helped Lille to a French domestic double in 2010/11, later starred for Roma and was in the 2015 AFCON Team of the Tournament.

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