Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Going out on a Limb.

After ruminating and vacillating on this issue for days, weeks, months I am going to finally put my head on the chopping block: The Ivory Coast will make it out of their group. Did I really just type that? Am I mental? Well, maybe but I'm going to go with my instincts. Why am I picking them to make it out? Well, four reasons at least:

1.) Didier Drogba.Everything the Ivory Coast does starts and ends with Didier. He is their best player and their captain.

Didier Drogba, aka the permed wonder.

He often looks like a man amongst boys(albeit a man with a really bad perm. check the photo to the right.). He's tough to handle in the air and on the ground and will give Dutch, Argentinian and the Serbian defenders more than they bargained for.

2.) Arouna Kone. I've only seen Kone play three times and on all three occasions he was the best player on the field. In the finals against Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations he was head and shoulders above everyone else. Even though the team eventually went out on pentalties my lasting memory of the game was Kone dribbling up and down the sidelines and beating every defender in front of him. Kone plays his club football in the Netherlands for PSV(Dutch Champions two years in a row) and I think this experience will serve him well when the Ivory Coast play the Dutch in the group stages.

3.) Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue. I know these two better than any other Ivory Coast players because they play their club football for my favorite team, Arsenal. Toure is a versatile defender. He can defend with the best of them but has the dribbling ability to take the ball deep in opponent's terrtiroy and he is not afraid to shoot. Eboue may turn out to be the surprise of the tournament. He's one of the fastest players I've seen in his position(right back) and often gets forward as much as he defends. IF Leo Messi plays for Argentina in their game against Ivory Coast it should be interesting to see the young duo face off in a battle that may decide the outcome.

4.) I just don't think the Dutch are as good as advertised. Although my guts picked them to come out the group stages I have them going down immediately to Portugal. They are a young and inexperienced team. I don't doubt their talent but similar to Germany I doubt whether they are ready for the big time. Arjen Robben, probably the best player in the Dutch side, is injury prone. Robin Van Persie has a tough time controlling his temper and Dutch striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy hasn't played a competitive match in almost 2 months now. None of this bodes well for the Dutch.There you have it. I have put my head on the chopping block and picked the Ivory Coast to advance from the group stages. I'm preparing to eat a serving of humble pie if my prediction is all wrong though.


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