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FIFA World Cup countdown: Top 10 Ivorian footballers of all time

As part of the countdown to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Sports Mole looks at the top 10 players in the history of Ivory Coast.

Since making their World Cup debut in 2006, Ivory Coast have become perennial qualifiers for the biggest tournament in world football. This summer will mark their third consecutive appearance at the finals, and hopes are high that they can make it their best ever campaign.

The group stages have not been kind to them in their past two appearances, with Argentina and Netherlands being drawn with the Elephants in 2006, while four years later they had Brazil and Portugal to contend with.

FIFA still ranks them as the best African team in the world, however, and with a kinder draw this time around they could reach the latter stages for the first time in their history.

Here, to continue our countdown to the 2014 tournament, Sports Mole looks at the top 10 players in the history of Ivory Coast.



10. Joel Tiehi (1987-99, 40 caps, 25 goals)

Appearing for Ivory Coast between 1987-99, Joel Tiehi played a major role in helping the Elephants to the one and only piece of silverware in their history - the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations.

Only Didier Drogba and Ibrahima Bakayoko have scored more goals for Ivory Coast than Tiehi, whose average of 0.62 goals per game is the third best in his country's history - again behind Drogba and Bakayoko.

In addition to the successful 1992 African Cup of Nations campaign, the striker also played in 1994, 1996 and 1998, while he spent most of his club career in Ligue 1.



9. Salomon Kalou (2007-present, 64 caps, 23 goals)

Former Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou shoots for goal while on international with Ivory Coast on March 05, 2014.© Getty Images

One place and two goals behind Tiehi on the all-time scoring list for Ivory Coast is Salomon Kalou, who could well move into second place this summer having been included in the Elephants' World Cup squad for Brazil.

His appearance haul would also be more impressive had he not turned down the opportunity to play for his country during the early stages of his career. The reason behind the snub was a desire to obtain Dutch nationality through his time with Feyenoord but, despite the efforts of Marco van Basten and Johan Cruyff, that never materialised.

Having enjoyed a prolific spell with Feyenoord he moved to Chelsea, where he won a Premier League title, four FA Cups, a League Cup and the Champions League during a trophy-laden six-year spell. He has since moved on to Lille and, at the age of just 28, could still climb this list by the time he retires.



8. Alain Gouamene (1987-2000, 58 caps, no goals)

Widely considered the greatest goalkeeper that Ivory Coast have ever had, Alain Gouamene holds a special place in the hearts of their fans having played a major role in clinching the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations title.

Gouamene saved two penalties in the final of that tournament to help Ivory Coast to a shootout victory over Ghana, handing them the solitary major trophy in their history. He went on to be named the best keeper of the competition.

In all, he participated in seven Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, making 24 appearances - both of which are records for his country. The International Football Federation of History and Statistics named him the ninth-best African goalkeeper of the 20th century.



7. Ibrahima Bakayoko (1996-2002, 45 caps, 30 goals)

Everton fans may remember Ibrahima Bakayoko as an expensive flop at Goodison Park in the late 1990s, but there was good reason for manager Walter Smith to shell out £4.5m for the striker. He had caught the eye with some memorable displays for Montpellier while also scoring twice in the 1998 Africa Cup of Nations.

Just four goals in 23 appearances prompted a move back to France, however, and he went on to play more than 100 league games for Marseille over a four-year spell with the Ligue 1 outfit. He then moved to La Liga with Osasuna and is still playing at the age of 37 in the lower leagues of French football.

During his time with Marseille he came third in the voting for African Player of the Year, losing out to Arsenal's Nwankwo Kanu and Bayern Munich's Samuel Kuffour. His goal-to-game ratio is the highest in Ivory Coast's history, while only Drogba has scored more times for the Elephants.



6. Didier Zokora (2000-present, 119 caps, one goal)

Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Didier Zakora in action for Ivory Coast against Brazil on June 20, 2010.© Getty Images

Another Ivorian to have plied his trade in the Premier League, Didier Zokora will travel to his third World Cup for the Elephants this summer in Brazil. The 33-year-old is already his country's most-capped player having turned out a mammoth 119 times on the international stage.

His most notable spell at club level came with Tottenham Hotspur, where he spent three years having joined the North London side for more than £8m. During that time, he won the League Cup in 2008 before returning to Wembley in the same competition a year later, only to lose out on penalties on that occasion.

After leaving White Hart Lane for Sevilla, Zokora picked up another domestic cup in the form of the Copa del Rey in 2010. He is currently without a club, however, having left Turkish side Trabzonspor recently.



5. Kolo Toure (2000-present, 107 caps, six goals)

Ivory Coast centre-back Kolo Toure keeps possession from Brazilian attacker Robinho on June 20, 2010.© Getty Images

Second in the all-time appearance list for Ivory Coast is Kolo Toure, who has turned out 107 times for his country over a 14-year international career. He has already featured in two World Cup tournaments and will make it a hat-trick by travelling to Brazil with the team this summer.

Toure was already a full international when he was picked up by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger as a relative unknown to English football fans in 2002. He went on to spend seven years with the Gunners, winning two FA Cups and playing a major role for the unbeaten 'Invincibles' that picked up the 2003-04 Premier League title.

He added another league title and FA Cup with Manchester City during a four-year stint at the Etihad, while he was involved in Liverpool's surprise title challenge in the Premier League season just finished. Although he has never won any international honours with Ivory Coast, he was part of the team that came second in both the 2006 and 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.



4. Youssouf Fofana (1982-92)

Another player who came under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger, Youssouf Fofana linked up with the French boss at Monaco to win the Ligue 1 title in 1988 and the Coupe de France three years later. The left winger also helped the team to the 1992 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final, where they were beaten by Werder Bremen.

Fofana burst onto the international stage early, becoming one of the youngest ever players to turn out for his country when he made his debut aged just 15 years and 204 days.

His technique and skills were highly regarded in the football world and led to nicknames such as 'The Black Diamond' or simply 'The Dribbler'. The International Football Federation of History and Statistics named him the 14th-best African player of the 20th century.



3. Laurent Pokou (1967-77)

Had his career not been curtailed by injuries, Laurent Pokou could well find himself even higher up this list. The striker left an indelible mark on the Africa Cup of Nations with a then-record 14 goals in just two editions of the tournament in 1968 and 1970.

He was named Player of the Tournament in the latter having scored eight goals that year, including a record five in one match against Ethiopia. His overall tally was only recently broken by Samuel Eto'o in 2008, although the Cameroon striker needed four editions the tournament to register his 15th goal.

His most notable spell at club level came with Rennes, where he scored an impressive 44 goals in 63 matches. He came second in the voting for African Footballer of the Year in 1970 and third three years later. IFFHS named him the seventh-best African player of the 20th century.



2. Yaya Toure (2004-present, 83 caps, 16 goals)

Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure battles for possession with Cristiano Ronaldo on June 15, 2010.© Getty Images

Quite possibly the most dominant player in world football at the moment, Yaya Toure has established himself as one of the finest midfielders of his generation during spells with Barcelona and Manchester City. Having made his debut for Ivory Coast in 2004, he has appeared in every single one of their World Cup matches to date and will be central to their hopes of success this summer.

At club level, the 31-year-old has won six league titles in four different countries, including the Premier League season just finished as he played a decisive role in Man City's success. He has also won four domestic cups in three different countries and picked up the Champions League during his time with Barcelona.

In addition to his World Cup showings, Toure has featured in five Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, helping the team to second place in 2006 and 2012. Individually, he has been named African Footballer of the Year in each of the last three seasons, and only Samuel Eto'o has been awarded the honour more times.



1. Didier Drogba (2002-present, 99 caps, 63 goals)

Didier Drogba celebrates scoring for Ivory Coast against Turkey on February 11, 2009.© Getty Images

Narrowly beating out Toure to the top spot is another powerhouse who made a huge impact in the Premier League. Didier Drogba arrived at Chelsea with a large price tag and took some time to get going, but when he left Stamford Bridge eight years later he was widely regarded as the greatest player in the club's history.

It was fitting that his final kick in a Chelsea shirt won the team their first ever Champions League title, bringing an end to a trophy-laden spell that also saw him pick up three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups. Now with Galatasaray, the 36-year-old will feature in his third World Cup this summer.

He is by far the highest scorer in Ivory Coast's history having found the net more than twice as much as second-placed Bakayoko. He has also been named the African Footballer of the Year on two occasions and has finished in the top three without winning a further seven times.



Ivory Coast will face Colombia, Greece and Japan in the group stages of this summer's World Cup, and you can follow every match live with Sports Mole.

Continuing our 50-day countdown to the tournament, we will be looking at the greatest players in Japan's history tomorrow. You can also see all of the World Cup top 10 lists so far by clicking here.

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Algeria defender Essaid Belkalem battles with Didier Droga of the Ivory Coast during the Africa Cup of Nations of January 30, 2013
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