In 2011 Clementine Toure should have been at the FIFA Women's World Cup™ in Germany as a member of the Equatorial Guinea coaching staff, but it was not to be as football officials in her native Côte d'Ivoire had earlier asked her to take over their women's team and it was a request that the coach could not turn down. “When your country asks you to serve, you have to follow the call,” Toure explained.
“I moved to Equatorial Guinea in 2006 to coach the club Aguilas Verdes," Toure continued. "A year later, I was asked whether I wanted to become national team coach. I said yes, and in 2008 we won the African Women's Championship.”
Two years later the side lost the final against Nigeria, but qualified for the Women's World Cup. “That would have given me the opportunity to go to the World Cup, but I did not take it," Toure said.
At the time, she of course had no idea that the chance would come again, and at the expense of her old team no less. Even after the Ivorians eliminated Equatorial Guinea in the qualifiers for the 2014 CAF African Women's Championship, they did not go to the continental finals in Namibia as one of the favourites and even after advancing to the semi-finals, where they lost to Cameroon, many thought that the final hurdle would be too big to overcome.
As Canada 2015 was the first time that Africa was allowed three representatives on the global stage, the play-off against a powerful South African side provided Toure and her team with a last role of the dice. South Africa had more of the game, but failed to take their chances, giving the west Africans an opportunity to grab the final ticket for Canada with a late goal scored by Ida Guehai. “It is a great honor to coach the team at their first World Cup," Toure said. "For several years the federation has been providing the means to develop the women's game and ensure the team is well prepared. This is the reward.”
The Women's World Cup rookies have been drawn into a rugged opening group and will face two-time champions Germany, Norway, who have a sweep of medals, as well as fellow rookies Thailand in Group B. Toure is aware that it will not be easy to escape the group.
“Germany and Norway are amongst the best teams in the world, so nobody can say that we received an easy draw," she said. "And Thailand will also be a complicated opponent. This will obviously be a very difficult group, but we will not go to Canada as victims. We want to achieve as much as we can and give a good image of ourselves and football in our country.”
Toure and her technical staff have been preparing by studying previous matches their opponents have played. “We do not know much about Thailand as we have been struggling to find recordings of their games," she said. "But we know that Norway and Germany play a fast game. These two teams each have big personalities and Germany is a team that scores a lot of goals.”
She is keeping her tactics tightly under wraps at this stage. “I will not reveal my plans," Toure explained. "We have some good players, with several players who play abroad, especially in Europe. We will rely on the squad that provided the backbone at the African championship in Namibia, but there will be some new players. But the main thing for us is not to concentrate only on our individual players, but also to look at the team as a collective and I think that will be one of our strengths.”
Toure played 22 times for her national side before moving into coaching officially. She has spent some time developing her own skills as a coach and is a qualified professor of physical education and sport, as well as a FIFA instructor, which she became in 2009. As a player, she played for several clubs in Abidjan and the surrounding areas, as well as in Ghana, winning three titles. She then started her career as a coach with JCA Treichville, where she had also played. After some success with the Abidjan-based club, she moved to Ghana.
“I come from a family of coaches, so it was a natural step for me to become involved as well," Toure said. "I even did that as a player. I was always telling my team-mates where to position themselves. Becoming a full-time coach was a logical step for me.”