In his first column for BBC Sport, Manchester City defender Kolo Toure explains why his Ivory Coast team need to win this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
Toure, who will be writing regularly throughout the tournament, also discusses the Elephants’ perfect preparations and the pain of last year’s defeat in the final.
It’s time for the talking to stop. Now is the time for Ivory Coast to show that we are ready to win the Africa Cup of Nations.
This generation of Ivory Coast players really wants to win something. Our squad has players who have won Champions League finals, have played in World Cups and won league titles in lots of different countries, but we have not won this title.
We badly want to go one step further this year, if it is Allah’s wish, after falling just short last January against Zambia.
After making it to the final in 2012, we had an amazing chance to win the tournament. You just never know when opportunities like that will come around again.
However, in that game, we didn’t take advantage of the chances that we had. After extra-time finished 0-0, we knew it would be a risk going to penalties. And so it proved.
This time around, it will be an even harder challenge. We have a tough group and we have to play – and get positive results – against Togo, Tunisia and Algeria.
The whole of the Ivory Coast nation will be behind us, though. We know what this tournament – and winning it – represents to the people back home, watching on TV and those who will make the long journey to see us in South Africa.
They remember the team that won this tournament in 1992. It would mean so much, to the nation and to everyone on this team, to repeat their achievement.
If we go all the way this year, then no one will think of us as the team that failed when it mattered. They will simply think of us as winners.
Sabri Lamouchi, our coach, knows what he wants. Our pre-tournament training camp in Abu Dhabi was great. The players in our squad are based around the world – Didier Drogba, of course, is in China while others are in Turkey, Russia, Spain and England. So we really value the time to train together.
We’ve concentrated a lot on our attacking and defensive shape. We know we’ll need some luck – you always do in a tournament – but our preparations have been ideal.
Our training facilities are excellent, too. We flew to South Africa from the Middle East last week and are based in Rustenburg. Our group games are at the same stadium where England played the USA during the 2010 World Cup.
There had not been a lot of time to work together before the tournament started last week and so our friendly against Egypt, played in Abu Dhabi on 14 January, was important, too. We won 4-2 and we’ve worked hard since that game to improve even more.
I’m so happy that the tournament is now under way.