LUANDA - Title favourites Ivory Coast launch their 2010 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) campaign today against Burkina Faso in the Cabinda enclave where the Togo squad were attacked by separatists.
The Elephants finished second and fourth in the past two editions of the biennial African football showcase and the media jury have reached a unanimous verdict that they will go all the way this time in Angola.
A glance at the 23-strong squad reveals why the burden of favouritism must be carried by a team containing stars from some of the strongest and wealthiest European clubs.
Defensive general Kolo Toure receives his pay slip from super-rich Manchester City, midfielder Yaya Toure lines up with European and world champions Barcelona, and striker Didier Drogba plays for mighty Chelsea.
All the other players under the charge of Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic are with European clubs bar third-choice goalkeeper Vincent de Paul Angban of perennial domestic champions Asec Mimosas.
Burkina Faso, defeated 3-2 at home and 5-0 away by the Ivorians in the 2010 qualifying competition, have little to offer in return with only striker Moumouni Dagano creating international headlines last year.
He overshadowed Drogba and fellow African superstars Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon, Michael Essien of Ghana and Frederic Kanoute of Mali by finishing leading scorer with 12 goals in the Nations Cup qualifiers.
But captain Drogba has warned his teammates to be vigilant, claiming overconfidence contributed heavily to a stunning 4-1 semifinal drubbing by Egypt in Ghana two years ago.
"We will be treating every team coming our way in Angola with respect, humility and seriousness. There is no room for complacency as in Ghana. No match is won in advance," warned Drogba in Abidjan. - Sapa-AFP