Côte d'Ivoire to lead the way at Toulon Tournament

Ivory Coast fans show their support prior to the International Friendly match between the Ivory Coast and Senegal at the Stade Charlety. Getty

Ivory Coast will lead the African charge at the prestigious Toulon Tournament when they take on Bahrain in their Group B opener on Tuesday night.

The competition is celebrating its 50th year and will for the first time feature 12 national teams pulled from five of FIFA's confederations, having established a reputation as one of the best junior tournaments in the world.

It started out as a club competition, but now features national teams in the Under-21 age group, and was considered an unofficial World Cup before FIFA introduced their own global event in 1977.

Angola played their opener on Monday and lost 1-0 to England in a Group A that also includes Cuba and Japan.

The Ivorians will also play hosts France (June 2) and Wales (June 5) in their pool, and will hope for a repeat of their 2010 victory in the competition when they defeated Denmark 3-2 in the final.

The Ivorians finished third in 2007 and 2008, and so have some pedigree in a competition that is eagerly-anticipated by scouts across Europe.

Ivorian Sekou Cisse was top-scorer in the last of those two competitions and a year later was snapped up by Feyenoord, before going on to become a full international for The Elephants.

There will be plenty of interest in their players again this year as they return for the first time since 2015, when they did not make it out of the pool stages. That year, African challengers Morocco picked up the silver medal.

Previously, when the competition was played with 10 teams, they were split into two groups of five, with the top side from each group playing in the final.

But the new format means there are now three groups of four teams, with the pool winners and the best-placed second side advancing to the knockout stages.

France present the obvious challenge to the Ivorians and are, not surprisingly, the most successful side in the competition with 12 wins, the last of which came two years ago.

They have picked a strong squad again, including midfielder Irvin Cardona from French Ligue 1 champions Monaco, Dayot Upamecano from German Bundesliga high-flyers RB Leipzig, and winger Bilal Boutobba, who plays for Spanish LaLiga side Sevilla.


The Toulon Tournament was first played in 1967 as a club competition and was won by Belgian side Anderlecht, who defeated Slovan Bratislava in the final.

When it switched to a national team competition in 1974, it became largely dominated by France and Brazil (eight wins).

Current holders England have the next most number of wins with five, followed by Portugal and Colombia with three each.

Ivory Coast's win in 2010 was the only time an African side won gold, though Morocco did come close with that final loss to France two years ago. Cameroon finished fourth in 1985, as did the Ivorians in 2000.

The competition has seen some top names in the game take part over the years.

French striker Jean-Pierre Papin finished top-scorer in 1985, a year in which future Cameroon World Cup star François Omam-Biyik was named Player of the Tournament.

Other famous names to excel include Frenchmen Thierry Henry, David Ginola, and Djibril Cissé, future English internationals Alan Shearer and David James, Portugal legend Rui Costa, the Argentine pair of Juan Román Riquelme and Javier Mascherano, and current Colombian star James Rodríguez.

The final of this year's competition will be played on June 10.