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Saturday, September 30, 2023

2023 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifying Preview: Group H

Ivory Coast


FIFA Ranking: 53

AFCON Appearances: 24

Best Finish: Champions (1992, 2015)

Manager: Jean-Louis Gasset

Key Player

Franck Kessié (FC Barcelona- Spain)

The central midfield dynamo is coming off a triumphant club season where he featured regularly as AC Milan captured their first Serie A title since the 2010-11 season. With a move to FC Barcelona completed for next season the 25-year-old is in peak form that Ivorian supporters hope will remain when the country hosts the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. Kessié typically operates deep in the midfield but can be used in a variety of roles and is more than capable of moving forward to score and create goals as evidenced by 37 goals over five seasons for Milan. The focus for the player born in Ouragahio is helping his national side find their best form after several years where the Elephants have not quite lived up to expectations.

Other players to watch

Sebastien Haller (AFC Ajax- Netherlands) The 2021-22 UEFA Champions League group stage’s top scorer came into the Ivorian team with much fanfare after committing to the country of his mother and scoring on his 2020 debut against Madagascar. However, the 27-year-old has not quite translated his sizzling scoring form to the Elephants with only one goal in the 2021 AFCON. Much will be expected of Haller this summer in the form of goals.

Nicolas Pépé (Arsenal- England) Despite not living up to his lofty price tag for English club Arsenal, the enigmatic winger/forward scored twice at the 2021 AFCON and also delivered the lone goal in a recent 2-1 friendly defeat to France where the Elephants put in an inspired effort. Pépé and fellow English Premier League winger Wilfried Zaha will be hoping to deliver what is expected of them to make the Ivorian attack as fearless as it looks on paper.

Serge Aurier (Villarreal CF- Spain) The 29-year-old veteran right back and captain for his national team set a poor example by getting two yellow cards in the opening forty minutes as the Elephants slumped to a decisive 3-0 friendly defeat against England. Following his departure from Tottenham Hotspur, Aurier did well to earn playing time at Villarreal this past season and will look to be a steady influence in a defense that is considered Ivory Coast’s weakness.


At times it appears that Ivory Coast are the most talented national team in Africa but the Elephants missed out on the 2022 FIFA World Cup and struggled to live up to their potential under previous manager Patrice Beaumelle. With plenty of quality in the midfield and attack and a new manager the Ivorians should impose themselves on their way to first place in the qualifying group.