24 August, 2021
05 September
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AfroBasket 2021 - Team Profile: Cote d'Ivoire

ABIDJAN (Cote d'Ivoire) - There is a new vigor in Ivorian basketball that has attracted confidence in the team as they look to make an impact in the upcoming FIBA AfroBasket 2021 holding in Rwanda.

The confidence in the current team is reminiscent of what the team exuded back in 2013 when the country hosted the tournament. The only problem then was the pressure that followed as fans looked forward to the team winning the trophy at all costs.

Sadly, it did not happen. But having qualified for their 24th AfroBasket in style, the expectation and hopes look more realistic.

Cote d'Ivoire were no doubt the top performer of Group C in the AfroBasket 2021 Qualifiers, The West African nation have not looked back since their return from the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.

No doubt their confidence has grown and it has shown in their approach to any event as was witnessed throughout in the AfroBasket 2021 Qualifiers.

The 'Elephants' of Cote d'Ivoire punched their ticket to the Final Round in Kigali, Rwanda with convincing wins over Cameroon, Guinea and Equitorial Guinea.

The team recorded a perfect record in all 6 matches they played in the November and February Windows living nothing to chance that they were the best team in their group.

Currently ranked number 50 on the FIBA World Ranking, Cote d'Ivoire are looking to show class and better their performances of 1981 and 1985 when they won gold.

Key facts about Cote d'Ivoire:

Team: Cote d’Ivoire
FIBA Ranking Men: 50th (World); 4th (Africa)
Last participation in the AfroBasket: 2017 (3 defeats in as many games; finished 14th)
Best result at AfroBasket: African champions in 1981 and 1985
How they qualified for the AfroBasket 2021: Cote d'Ivoire finished first in Group C of the Qualifiers with a 6-0 record.
World: Four participations in the FIBA Basketball World Cup (1982, 1986, 2010 and 2019).

Cote d'Ivoire qualified for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in dramatic and extraordinary circumstances.

After only narrowly avoiding elimination in the first qualifying round (they finished 3rd in their group and only qualified because they held the tiebreaker to Mozambique), they needed to win their last three games in the final group by a combined margin of 66 points in order to qualify as the best-ranked third-placed team.

Cote d'Ivoire remarkably did so (actually, they won by a combined 73 points), dispatching even African powerhouses and already-qualified Nigeria by a score of 72–46 in the process.

Combined with a loss for the Central African Republic against Nigeria, Ivory Coast finished third in the group and qualified for the World Cup by virtue of a better total points difference than Cameroon.

Youth teams: Since the inception of the FIBA U16 African Championship, Cote d'Ivoire have not made it to the medal zone. Two years ago, the 'Elephants' finished ninth in the ten-nation tournament in Praia, Cape Verde after registering a 1-4 mark thanks to a 63-51 triumph over Algeria in the Classification Round.

Souleyman Diabate

Key Players: A quick look into Cote d'Ivoire’s recent games, the likes of team captain Guy Landry Edi, Souleyman Diabate, Vafessa Fofana and - who played for USA youth teams - Deon Thompson have proved resourceful and fundamental to the team. All four have returned after the 2019 World Cup, and remain key to the squad.

Rising Star: Nisre Mimi Zouzoua was 24 when he debuted for the 'Elephants' in the second window of the Qualifiers. He showed grip, tenacity and proved that he belonged. If the 1.86m (6f 1in) guard Zouzoua is available for the Kigali showdown, the Ivoirians have reasons to stay confident about their chances.

Nisre Mimi Zouzoua

Head coach: Ignacio 'Natxo' Lezkano debuted as head coach of Cote d'Ivoire at AfroBasket 2011 in Madagascar. He returned two years later when the country hosted the African Championship in Abidjan where they finished fourth. After a seven-year gap, the Spaniard returned at the helm of the two-time African champions in February 2020, and is now set for his third stint with the 'Elephants'. 

Outlook: Having been to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, Cote d'Ivoire are benefiting from the gains as the players now think differently knowing that the expectations from the fans are high as they look forward to their first AfroBasket gold since 1985.

With inspirational leaders such as Diabate, Thompson, Edi and Stephane Konate still ready and willing to carry Cote d'Ivoire on their shoulders, the nation can look forward to a resounding success in Kigali, Rwanda later in the year if the tide favors them.