Ivory Coast striking duo in surprise squad omission
Ivory Coast (150/1 tournament chances) head coach Sabri Lamouchi has made a couple of surprise omissions from his squad, as he cut the roster from 28 down to 23 ahead of the World Cup finals in Brazil.
Frenchman Lamouchi has decided to drop talented attacking pair Lacina Traore (who played for Everton on loan this season) and Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow), behind former Leeds United winger Max Gradel and Giovanni Sio of Basel.
The other three names left behind are goalkeeper Badra Ali (Mimosas, Ivory Coast), and French-based defensive duo Benjamin Angoua (Valenciennes) and Brice Dja Djedje (Marseille).
“I’ve known a few difficult moments in my two years as national coach of the Ivory Coast, like when I was appointed, the criticism, the pressure to get results etc. But today has been by far the most difficult day,” Lamouchi said.
While the omission of 6ft 8in striker Traore is understandable – the Monaco-owned player managed to feature just nine times this term for old side Anzhi Makhachkala and Everton due to injury – Doumbia’s absence is a strange one.
The 26-year-old was sidelined briefly early on in the season, but netted an impressive 20 times and got eight assists in 25 games in the Russian top-flight, which CSKA won, and Champions League.
Taking his place is Sio, who lifted the Swiss Super League with his club this campaign. However, the 25-year-old scored just nine goals in 23 appearances.
It is not the first time that Lamouchi has made big decisions in recent weeks, as he left out experienced full backs Siaka Tiene and Emmanuel Eboue of the initial World Cup squad.
Ivory Coast’s 23-man roster does still contain a vast amount of experience, though, with the likes of ‘golden generation’ players Didier Drogba, Yaya and Kolo Toure, Salomon Kalou, Didier Zakora and Gervinho making the cut.
National captain Drogba, 36, spoke optimistically about his country’s chances. “Competing at the previous two tournaments was very difficult,” he said. “We have a realistic chance to do better in Brazil and get past the first round.”
The Elephants have been placed in Group C of the competition, along with Colombia, Japan and Greece, and are priced at 4/1 to top that pool, and 11/10 to qualify to the knockout rounds for the first time.
They face Japan first up on June 15th, and are slight favourites at 17/10 to win that match.
Final Ivory Coast squad for World Cup in Brazil
Goalkeepers: Boubacar Barry (Lokeren), Sylvain Gbohouo (Sewe Sport), Sayouba Sande (Stabaek).
Defenders: Kolo Toure (Liverpool), Sol Bamba (Trabzonspor), Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor), Serge Aurier (Toulouse), Arthur Boka (Stuttgart), Ousmane Viera Diarrassouba (Caykur Rizespor), Constant Djakpa (Frankfurt), Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro (Toulouse).
Midfielders: Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Cheik Tiote (Newcastle), Serey Die (Basel), Max Gradel (Saint Etienne), Diomande Ismael (Saint Etienne), Didier Ya Konan (Hannover), Mathis Bolly (Dusseldorf).
Forwards: Gervinho (Roma), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray), Salomon Kalou (Lille), Wilfried Bony (Swansea), Giovanni Sio (Basel).