Côte d'Ivoire have emerged as a true African giant in recent years, driven by a generation of talented players at the peak of their game in the top leagues of world football. The likes of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Kolo Toure, Aruna Dindane and Emmanuel Eboue are regulars with some of the world's top clubs and form the backbone of the Elephants' impressive rise up the ranks of the international game.
They finished runners-up at the 2006 CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt, where they only lost to the host nation on penalties, and also went through to the semi-finals of the 2008 event in neighbouring Ghana.
More importantly, the Ivorians qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup ™ finals in Germany, their first appearance in the greatest footballing show on earth. Once there, the, Ivorians' dream of a place in the last 16 were dashed by narrow defeats to two of the game's traditional superpowers - the Netherlands and Argentina - but they impressed pundits and spectators alike with the manner of their performances.
The strength of Ivorian football has also been shown by their first-time qualification to the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008
The West Africans will be among the favourites to grab one of the five places for Africa in at 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa. They will certainly be expected to dominate a first round group which also includes Botswana and Mozambique, new coach Vahid Halilhodžić was hired only weeks before the start of qualifying.