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Less ego, more sweat will fire Ivory Coast World Cup bid

By Ange Aboa

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - The Ivory Coast players have been urged to bury their egos and increase their work rate at the World Cup after a disappointing African Nations campaign.

After a shock defeat by Algeria in the quarter-finals in February, captain Didier Drogba said individual ego problems had affected the team's performances.

Former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson will take charge of the team at the World Cup starting next month after he replaced Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic who was sacked after the Nations Cup.

"Let them put their egos aside this time and really sweat, because after a missed opportunity in the Africa Cup we have to go as far as we can," former striker Abdoulaye Traore told Reuters.

"If they can't put their pride aside, it's going to be difficult for them to play for the same cause," said Traore who helped The Elephants win the Nations Cup in 1992.

Ivory Coast have been drawn in World Cup Group G along with Brazil, Portugal and North Korea.

Gnahouleou Emile, president of The Elephants' supporters club, said: "It's for the players to provide the means to win. If they agree to knuckle down and work hard, we can go far."

Ivorians have had mixed feelings about laying the blame on Halilhodzic for the Nations Cup loss, which some saw as unfair.

"What's the point of taking a new coach if the... players are divided into clans and groups? We will still get the same results," said taxi driver Marcelin Niamkey.

While the debate about the squad's unity rumbles on the country is already gearing up for the tournament.

Hawkers selling orange Elephants shirts and wigs are plying the streets of Abidjan and palm-fringed local bars are setting up projector screens to show the action.

(Writing by Tim Cocks, editing by Ken Ferris)