Ivory Coast has a better chance of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup knockouts than they had in their previous two attempts, according to their forward Salomon Kalou.
Kalou scored the vital goal in the 1-1 draw against Senegal that confirmed Ivory Coast's qualification for their third straight World Cup and believes his side can advance from the group that pits them Colombia, Greece and Japan.
Ivory Coast have won just two of their six Wold Cup matches - in 2006 and 2010 - but Kalou remains optimisitc and confident about his side's chances in Brazil.
“I think it’s a good group and I believe we can advance," Kalou told Al Jazeera.
We need to raise our level to that of our opponents. They’re good teams but Ivory Coast is on a different level too which is why I'm optimistic about our chances.
"We need to raise our level to that of our opponents. They’re good teams but Ivory Coast is on a different level too which is why I'm optimistic about our chances."
The team is ranked 17th in the world, and best in Africa, and a lineup that includes Kalous and Didier Drogba makes it a powerful side to contend with. But despite the talent and promise, Ivory Coast has failed to deliver the results in their previous attempts.
“We usually play the strongest opponents in the past with Argentina and the Netherlands in 2006 and Brazil and Portugal in 2010 and that's a huge factor in us not being able to advance.”
The tasks seems manageable this time round. Learning from past experiences, the team has gained valuable experience, according to Kolou, who has hinted at a cautious approach.
“We’ll take it one match at a time. Every team going to the World Cup will be very well prepared and you can't underestimate any opponent because they will have come prepared and ready to win their matches."
Following the World Cup draw, Kalou spoke with teammates, including the national team captain Drogba, and they both agreed on what needed to be done in Brazil.
“I spoke with Drogba and we realised that it can only be a good group campaign if we make it to the next round. That is what we have to prepare for.
"We have to make it through otherwise it’s not a good for us.”
Colombia, with Radamel Falcao, is widley tipped to win the group and Kalou recognises the strengths of the South American team but also reiterated the need to not be complacent against other teams in the group.
“Every team at the World Cup is good and every match is difficult. I think the first game is very important. If you don’t win your first game, it gets very difficult to reach your qualification goals.
"The first game against Japan would very much determine our future in the event. If we win the first game, I think we have a good chance to go far in the tournament."
Kolou is a man in form, picking up the man-of-the-match award when his club Lille finished the year with a 2-2 draw against Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Paris Saint-Germain.
He started the new year in a similar manner, scoring a brace in a Cup game against SC Amiens.
His team, and fans, will be hoping the scoring run continues well into the summer.
Sulaiman Folarin - A a journalist, presenter, analyst and commentator in sports for almost two decades. He has appeared on major tv networks, presented radio shows and written for top publications in Africa, Europe and USA. He tweets @sulaiman4real
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
Source: Al Jazeera