Africa Cup of Nations 2019: Ivory Coast Football Team| Final Squad, Preview, Predictions
Cote d'Ivoire will kick-start their Africa Cup of Nations campaign on June 24 and will try to make amends for their disappointing group-stage exit in the tournament's 2017 edition. The Elephants are said to be one of the title favourites due to their star-studded squad.
Ivory Coast began their qualification campaign with a 2-3 defeat against Guinea but the 11 points collected in their next five matches ensured their spot in this year's competition. They finished second in their group behind Guinea with Central African Republic and Rwanda occupying the last two spots respectively.
During the preparation match against Comoros, the Ivorians looked solid with a convincing 3-1 win. The two-time champions will face Uganda and Zambia before the main event starts.
Les Elephants are placed in Group D alongside Morocco, Namibia, and South Africa. The African side has a slight issue in their defence as Eric Bailly misses out due to a knee injury.
Ivory Coast Squad
Goalkeepers: Sylvain Gbohouo, Badra Ali Sangaré, Tape Ira
Defenders: Serge Aurier, Wilfried Kanon, Wonlo Coulibaly, Ismaël Traoré, Mamadou Bagayoko, Cheick Comara, Souleymane Bamba
Midfielders: Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Geoffroy Serey Dié, Jean-Michaël Seri, Victorien Angban, Franck Kessié, Ibrahim Sangaré
Attackers: Max-Alain Gradel, Nicolas Pépé, Wilfried Zaha, Jonathan Kodjia, Roger Assalé, Maxwel Cornet, Wilfried Bony
Serge Aurier: The 26-year-old defender, Serge Aurier, will have an extra responsibility of marshalling his defence in the absence of Eric Bailly.
Aurier should restrain his forward runs in order to provide cover to the centre-halves and also allow the likes of Nicolas Pepe and Wilfried Zaha to express themselves in the attack. The continental tournament is a litmus test for the Tottenham right-back's leadership credentials at the back.
Franck Kessié: Kessie blossomed in a box-to-box role at AC Milan during the 2018/19 season, accumulating seven goals and three assists in the Serie A. The industrious midfielder is also an able orchestrator as he averaged close to 50 passes per games in the league with an accuracy of 87%.
Ivory Coast manager, Ibrahim Kamara, will be hoping that the 22-year-old replicates his club exploits at an international stage. Kessie's fluency in midfield could help Jean Michael-Seri, and they could strike a solid partnership in the middle of the park.
Nicolas Pepé: Pepe has arrived for international duty on the back of a prolific season in France, scoring and assisting a total of 33 league goals for Lille. The 24-year-old will ease the burden off Wilfried Bony who did the bulk of scoring for Cote d'Ivoire.
The Ivorian attacking group, consisting of Zaha, Pepe, Bony, and Cornet looks scary on paper, but they should form a unit and try their best to propel their national side towards continental glory.
Cote d'Ivoire AFCON Fixtures
Monday, June 24: Ivory Coast vs South Africa
Friday, June 28: Morroco vs Ivory Coast
Monday, July 1: Namibia vs Ivory Coast