Over the next four months, SI.com will profile two World Cup teams a week. We continue with Ivory Coast. Click here for the full archive.
FIFA world ranking: No. 32.
How they qualified for Germany: Won Africa's Group 3 with a 7-1-2 record, one point in front of Cameroon.
Previous World Cups: None.
Manager: Henri Michel, third year with team.
Star striker Didier Drogba is easily Ivory Coast's most important player, and he'll take most of the responsibility if the African minnows are to advance to the knockout phase of the World Cup. Since arriving at Chelsea in 2004 from Marseille in what was the second-biggest transfer in English soccer history, he has been in stunning form, helping lead the club to the Premiership title and the League Cup during the '04-05 season. Drogba's greatest attribute is his speed, although his solid build (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) makes him a player who doesn't fall to the ground easily. Having found the back of the net on nine occasions in World Cup qualifying, Drogba is destined to make his mark on the world stage.
Defender Kolo Touré has become an integral part of the defensive unit at Arsenal. Though he's only 25, he has gained a wealth of experience in the Premier League, and much is expected of him at the World Cup. Touré is most known for his venomous shot, but his greatest ability is precisely timed tackling that makes him one of the most sought-after defenders in European soccer. If Touré finds his best form in Germany, Ivory Coast could be a tough nut to crack.
What to watch for
In the past few years, Ivory Coast has emerged as one of the most powerful soccer nations in all of Africa. The Elephants knocked out Cameroon and Egypt -- both traditional African powers -- on their way to the World Cup, and were the runners-up at the African Cup of Nations, eventually falling to the host Egyptians in the final on penalty kicks. It's entirely possible that this talented group could go further at the Cup than surprise quarterfinalist Senegal did in '02.
Much of Ivory Coast's recent success is due to the rise of talented players who are excelling in top European leagues. The main strength of this side is its power in attack, but the Ivorians are no slouches when it comes to defense. But, as is common with most African sides, they tend to get out of focus very easily, which could seriously damage their chances of qualifying for the second round. The Elephants seem capable, but they must keep full concentration if they want to remain part of Africa's elite.
Group: C (Argentina, Serbia & Montenegro, Netherlands).
Key match: June 10 vs. Argentina. An upset here will bring back memories of Senegal's heroic '02 campaign, and will most definitely set up the Ivorians for a second-round spot.