Côte d'Ivoire captain at U-21 level and a senior first-team regular in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008 side, Lille winger Gervais Kouassi made a real breakthrough in 2009/10. Scorer of two goals in just three qualifiers on the road to South Africa, he has raised his profile both on the international stage and in Ligue 1 of late, winning plaudits for his natural talent, technique and pace.
Present as the Elephants fell 3-2 after extra-time to Algeria in the quarter-finals of the 2010 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, he was deeply disappointed by that loss and will be keen to show that lessons have been learnt. “It’s not normal that, with all our experience, we weren’t able to protect our lead,” he said of the dramatic conclusion to that match, which saw the Ivorians take the lead in the last minute, only to concede a soft equaliser in stoppage time.
“It’s a huge disappointment because we really wanted this trophy. Defensively, we need to play more as a team; we have to go about it together. Sometimes we let someone else do the work and just watch them, but I’m certain that this failure will help us and put us back on the right track.”
Born in Anyama, Gervais Kouassi started out as a pupil at the Jean-Mac Guillou Academy of capital side ASEC Mimosas, spending five years with ASEC before turning professional at Toumodi. In the summer of 2005, he joined Romaric, Emmanuel Eboue and Boubacar Barry at Beveren, and although the Belgian side’s results were hardly inspiring during his stay, he shone out on the flank and notched 14 goals in two seasons.
Impressed by his potential, Le Mans brought him on board in June 2007 and, following a season spent adapting to the French game, during which his international debut also came in November 2007, he truly announced his arrival in 2008/09. That persuaded Lille to secure his services and, still only 22, 'Gervinho' is now one of the outstanding talents in Ligue 1.