Why did the Ivory Coast fail to qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup? This is a question that not only Ivoirians would be asking, but the rest of Africa – maybe with the exception of Morocco – but who has the answer? Where has it all gone wrong for a country who, even though never outrightly dominated the African game over the last decade when they had their biggest splash of superstars since the ‘90s, but still emerged as a dominant force?Between 2006 and now, the Ivory Coast reached at least the semifinals of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) four times in seven editions, and made the quarterfinals twice and within the same period, qualified for three straight World Cups and could have made it a fourth, but then, Morocco struck. And it is this blow by the Moroccans that has warranted this piece. What happened to the Ivory Coast?To put things in perspective, a combination of factors have contributed to rob the West Africans of a fourth consecutive appearance at the World Cup, not least a dearth in talent and coaching instability and incompetence.A quick look at the present Ivoirian team leaves a lot to desire and makes one wonder, if this was the same team that had the likes of Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers only a few years ago. It seems like centuries ago now since those players left the scene, doesn’t it?
Still, was it not this same team which emerged as African champions just two years ago? There are a lot more questions than answers, but winning the AFCON in 2015 seemed more like an anti-climax more than anything else, as that was the only silverware the so-called golden generation could win, but ironically, only after their biggest superstar, Drogba had retired from international football.With Drogba and the Toure brothers leaving the scene, it proved the end of an era in more ways than one. Of course, Gervinho and Salomon Kalou are still very much part of the current team, but are they the same players they were half a decade ago? The simple answer is no.
The appointment of Marc Wilmots didn’t make the situation any better, as he once again proved he isn’t quite as adept at coaching as he was as a player. The Belgian has barely had any success in his coaching career (unless you consider reaching the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euros as achievements for a team of Belgium’s quality), and has been sacked everywhere he has worked for poor performance.He only needed to beat Morocco at home to book a place at the World Cup, but he bungled it. It gets even worse when you remember it was Herve Renard, who led the Ivory Coast to that AFCON triumph in 2015, that led the Moroccans to beat them in Abidjan. Maybe, once again, Wilmots will be fired for poor performance.