Football

5 Ivory Coast players to watch at the World Cup

Ivory Coast will stick with its tried and trusted veterans and only a few young players at the World Cup.

Didier Drogba, now 36, remains the team's talismanic player and, with more than 60 international goals to his name, the biggest danger up front. Yaya Toure has proven this season with Manchester City that he has a devastating eye for goal, while Didier Zokora is still just as reliable in a defensive midfield role.

But there are also players like Serge Aurier, a dynamic right back who is likely to get a chance to shine in Brazil. Here are five players to watch:

DIDIER DROGBA

Didier Drogba hardly needs an introduction.

Drogba is the country's leading scorer with 64 goals and netted 157 in 341 appearances during a Chelsea career packed with medals.

He won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and, on in one glorious final appearance, the Champions League in 2012 before leaving to join Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua in a brief spell.

The fact he scored nine goals in nine finals with Chelsea shows what a big-game player he is, but success on the international stage has proved more elusive for the 36-year-old Drobga, who played for Turkish side Galatasary last season. He has so far failed to lead the Ivory Coast to victory at the African Cup of Nations, losing twice in the final.

YAYA TOURE

Yaya Toure is slightly less revered than Drogba among Ivory Coast fans, but only just.

Over the past few seasons, the 30-year-old Toure has come out of Drogba's shadow to impose himself by winning three straight African Footballer of the Year awards. Drogba, by comparison, has won it twice.

Toure's confidence has soared since he joined Manchester City from Barcelona four years ago.

He was considered good at Barcelona, but not irreplaceable. At City he is the main man, and that is reflected in his new-found scoring ability.

In Spain, he scored only four goals in 74 league games. For City, he had netted 37 times in 127 league appearances by the end of March.

GERVINHO

Gervinho got his career back on track and proved many critics wrong when he joined Italian club Roma in the offseason after two frustrating years in England.

The inconsistency he showed with Arsenal vanished when he moved to Italy, where he blossomed under coach Rudi Garcia — his mentor at Lille from 2009-11.

His sometimes clumsy technique infuriated Arsenal fans, but Garcia found a way to harness his speed and direct running style to good effect.

He still needs to score more goals, however, and his ratio of 13 goals in 52 games for Ivory Coast is mediocre.

DIDIER ZOKORA

Didier Zokora has been around for so long that he even has more international appearances than Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba.

The 33-year-old Zokora may not have their flair — scoring only once in 119 international games — but his gritty, combative style has proved priceless for the team, as has his versatility.

Zokora is best deployed as a defensive midfielder but can also double up in defense.

The much-traveled Zokora played in the Turkish league last season with Trabzonspor and previously played for Spanish side Sevilla, Premier League club Tottenham and French side Saint-Etienne.

SERGE AURIER

Along with goalkeeper Mande Sayouba, 21-year-old Serge Aurier brings much-needed youth to an aging squad.

Blessed with searing pace and an assured technique, Aurier has already made an impression in the French league for Toulouse in the past two seasons and is expected to make a big-money move elsewhere, with English Premier League Arsenal reportedly interested in signing him.

As well as solid defending, Aurier has a flair for goals and he has scored several times for Toulouse this season.

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