African Footballer of the Year Yaya Toure has said the time has come for 2012 CAF African Cup of Nations co-favourites Côte d'Ivoire to match talk with trophies.
After losing on penalties to hosts Egypt in the 2006 final, the Elephants were hot favourites in the next two championships only to stumble out in the knockout stages. An overconfident team crumbled 4-1 to Egypt in the 2008 semi-finals and the Ivorians conceded a last-minute equaliser against Algeria in the quarter-finals two years later before losing after extra time.
A couple of years later, and the Ivorians once again find themselves at the top of the favourites' list alongside Ghana. And this time around, Manchester City star Toure believes it is time the national side avoid such slip ups.
"This is the third time that people say we are favourites so I think 2012 will be the year of Côte d'Ivoire. We have such a fantastic squad and I think we have a chance of going far," said Toure, who missed the FA Cup loss to city rivals United last weekend because it came a day after the Ivorians assembled in Paris.
"After the losses we have had at the Cup of Nations, I believe the squad now has the experience and right mentality," Toure added.
Maximum points is a realistic goal against the likes of Sudan, Burkina Faso, and Angola in Group B, although the Ivorians will tread warily against the Burkinabe as they were held 0-0 by them in Angola just two years ago. "They have a fantastic team," Toure said of a nation who were confirmed as participants only this week.
Should Côte d'Ivoire finish first in their group, Zambia or Libya loom as likely last-eight opponents. Boubacar Barry is the probable first-choice goalkeeper behind a rearguard that could include Siaka Tiene, Kolo Toure, an older brother of Yaya, Arthur Boka and Emmanuel Eboue.
Add midfielders Yaya Toure, Cheik Tiote, Didier Zokora and Gervinho and strikers Salomon Kalou and captain Didier Drogba and it is no surprise that Côte d'Ivoire are considered one of the teams to beat.
The key to success could be attitude with coach and former professional Francois Zahoui warning that a lack of respect for opponents has cost the Elephants dearly before. "People say Cameroon, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa have not qualified so Côte d'Ivoire must be super title favourites while forgetting about other strong teams like Ghana and Senegal," Zahoui said.