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World Cup predictions: Ivory Coast

After four years of waiting, the time has come. Another World Cup is here, and our bloggers across all 32 competing countries have each predicted the fate that awaits their team. The country's Outlook gives a general view of its situation ahead of the tournament, while Pitfalls takes a look at any potential problems. Each blogger will also predict the top scorer and breakout star and suggest how far that nation can go.

OUTLOOK

Because this squad only played in two pre-World Cup friendlies, it is relatively difficult to assess how preparation has gone. A 2-1 loss to fellow tournament competitors Bosnia-Herzegovina and a 2-1 win over El Salvador create some inconclusive results.

Probably yet to reach their peak, Ivory Coast will nevertheless be filled with confidence, as they possess a squad and team cohesion looking to escape a group that is most definitely negotiable.

With key players such as Salomon Kalou, Wilfried Bony and Yaya Toure all finishing the domestic season well, one has reason to be positive about this team. They have remained at a consistently high level for several years. Now it is just a question of whether that level is high enough to see them over the first hurdle.

PITFALLS

Defence is the main worry for fans of Les Elephants. It is hardly confidence-filling, even at it's best, with Kolo Toure and Didier Zokora having both seen better years.

Fears also exist over an excessive reliance on Toure, meaning that an injury to or poor performance by the Manchester City midfielder could suffocate the team's creativity -- which would be a severe setback.

Indeed, a general lack of depth is concerning for them, as their 2-1 loss to Bosnia showed. While they should not be underestimated, the under-strength team that Sabri Lamouchi fielded (with many players who made it into the final 23) looked a shadow of their full-strength counterparts.

STAR SCORER

Assuming he starts up top over Didier Drogba, one would have to look toward Bony. Having really racked up the goals in the Premier League this season, the man they call "Daddy Cool" is going to be the central figure in their attack.

Whether he starts or not, Drogba's role in the team cannot be underestimated. As shown when he came on against Bosnia to grab a late goal, the aura that surrounds this man when he steps on the pitch is spell-binding, and he could finish top scorer with a series of impact-sub performances.

This is likely to be the final chance at a World Cup for Didier Drogba, now 36.

WILDCARD

Serey Die has made himself into a regular starter in this team, and he has won a lot of admirers at FC Basel. Comparable to Nigel de Jong in playing style but with a bit more added to his offensive game, Die's style is to tidy up in front of the defence in a very full-on style and throw himself into tackles at any opportunity. He has become integral to Ivory Coast through the way he retrieves the ball and recycles possession, contributing to the potency of their attacking force through his committed defensive work.

PREDICTION: Second in groups as good as it gets?

It's a tough one to call, due to the competitive nature of their group. With Colombia hotly tipped to be a breakthrough force this summer, Japan always underestimated before each tournament and Greece having a habit of battling through the initial stages to reach the second round, there are no games that Ivory Coast will view as easy.

Assuming Colombia perform to expectations, I'd say Ivory Coast will finish second in their group and advance. But how far they can realistically get after that is questionable.