Lamouchi: No easy road for Côte d'Ivoire

Sabri Lamouchi has told those who feel Côte d'Ivoire will coast into the World Cup knockout stages: "It's a mistake to think that."

Lamouchi, 42, will take his team into the global finals where they face Japan, Colombia and Greece in Group C. With a squad containing bona fide stars such as Manchester City's Yaya Toure and Galatasaray's Didier Drogba, Lamouchi's men are fully expected to sweep through a clement-looking section and guide the Elephants into the last 16 for the first time in three attempts.

However, the former French international, who was appointed in 2012, told L'Equipe those who expect to see his players achieve progress at a canter should think again.

"If you know football, you could say that it's open, evenly-balanced, but certainly not easy. I think that the four teams are level. Each has its style, each has a chance of going through. For me, the favourite is Colombia, even if Falcao isn't there. That team has quality in attack. Greece will also be a difficult opponent, because they're tough to play against, very solid defensively."

The opening game against Japan in Recife on June 14, will set the tone for the Ivorians, to whom Lady Luck has been somewhat kinder this time after having placed them in a group with Brazil and Portugal in South Africa four years ago.

While Lamouchi has his sights pinned on making Ivorian football history by moving beyond the group stage, his squad selection also reflects his desire to shape a successful future for the west African nation after the ageing stars of today have retired.

"Our ambition is to go through the first round, which the Côte d'Ivoire has never managed to do up till now. In two years, I have brought in my ideas, my methods, and I can assure you that we are working well.

"The national team has opened up to new, young players, like Sio, Die, Akpa-Akpro, Aurier and Djakpa. Because it's also about preparing our future. It's true that there are great players in this squad, players of international class like Yaya Toure, Drogba or Gervinho, for example. But that generation still hasn't won anything, and we would need to try and find out the reasons for that."