FIFA U-17 World Cup 2013 UAE will be the fourth time that Côte d'Ivoire
will compete on the global stage. Their best finish was at their first appearance in 1987, when they were beaten by the USSR in the semi-finals, but went on to beat Italy in the play-off for third place. They then had to endure an 18-year wait for their second appearance, which proved rather short-lived as they were knocked out in the group stage after getting just a point from their draw against USA.
At the last finals in Mexico two years ago, they finished runner-up in their group behind Brazil, only to be knocked out by France in the last 16. In Souleymane Coulibaly, they did though, have the top scorer. The Italian-based striker, who was signed by Tottenham Hotspur after the tournament, scored an astonishing nine goals in the four matches that he played.
Having been involved in the last FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico, the Baby Elephants were eager to finish in the top four at the CAF U-17 African championships in Morocco to again qualify for the showpiece event in the age group. Ibrahim Kamara's side had a tough task on their hands as they were drawn into the so-called Group of Death, where they faced two powerhouses of U-17 football in Ghana and Nigeria. The Ivorians secured a draw against Congo in their opening game, but then did most of the hard work for a place in the semi-finals with a last-gasp 1-0 win against Nigeria. A draw against Ghana in their final group match was good enough to see them advance to the knock-out stage in second place behind the Golden Eaglets. They beat Morocco in the semi-finals and then secured their first-ever African championship with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory against Nigeria in the final.
Unlike Nigeria, whom they beat in the final, the Baby Elephants built success upon their defence, rather than attack. Although the side scored only five goals in their five matches, they conceded just three, with goalkeeper Seck Diabagate and defender Franck Kessie outstanding. Upfront Dogbole Niangbo got the winner against Nigeria and then scored in the semi-final to keep the side on course for the championship match. Captain Kessie said that the side was so successful because they acted as a collective and praised the support they got from officials. "We were well looked after during the CAN, we want this also to be the case at the World Cup. We will work hard to have our chances. We have to prepare seriously for the World Cup, as it is at a different level. We will not go to the United Arab Emirates to make up the numbers."