The Ivory Coast begin their latest bid for Africa Cup of Nations glory on Tuesday when they take on neighbours Guinea in Group D in Malabo before Cameroon and Mali clash, AFP reports.
The Elephants have not won the continental title since 1992, although they have suffered agonising defeats on penalties in the 2006 and 2012 finals, with the latter loss coming against Herve Renard’s Zambia.
And it is the charismatic Frenchman who has been charged with the task of leading the Ivory Coast to glory in Equatorial Guinea.
His side did not always impress in qualifying, finishing second in their section behind Cameroon, and Renard has claimed that they cannot be considered as favourites to win the 30th Cup of Nations, especially since the retirement of the great Didier Drogba.
Nevertheless, the Ivorians still surely boast the strongest squad in the competition, with names like Serge Aurier, Kolo Toure, Gervinho, Seydou Doumbia and Wilfried Bony.
Then there is Bony’s Manchester City colleague Yaya Toure, who as the four-time African Footballer of the Year is the star draw at the finals.
He did not train with the rest of his team-mates in Malabo on Sunday, although Renard has indicated that he has just been keeping the 31-year-old as fresh as possible after a busy spell for his club.
“He has played a lot, notably between Christmas and New Year, for Manchester (City) and the most important thing is Tuesday,” said Renard.
Guinea are widely considered to be the weakest team in the group and it would be a big surprise if they reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 2008.
Under French coach Michel Dussuyer they finished second behind Ghana in qualifying, with Seydouba Soumah of Slovan Bratislava scoring five times in six games.
Later on Tuesday at the Estadio de Malabo, Cameroon will look to confirm their impressive form in qualifying when they face the Eagles of Mali.
Volker Finke’s Indomitable Lions have recovered from a poor World Cup campaign in Brazil and the retirement of the great Samuel Eto’o and are genuine contenders to win the title.
However, they will have to do without new skipper Stephane Mbia, who has recovered from an injury picked up playing for Sevilla earlier this month but is suspended after being sent off against the Ivory Coast in November.
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