Ivory Coast took a big step towards qualification for the 2014 World Cup on Saturday as they won 3-1 in the first leg of their play-off against Senegal in Abidjan.

Former Chelsea pair Didier Drogba and Saloman Kalou were on target, along with ex-Arsenal man Gervinho. Senegal pulled a goal back through Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse deep into stoppage time to give his side hope in the second leg.

The hosts ran out comfortable winners in front of their own supporters, but will be disappointed to concede a late away goal that keeps Senegal in contention going into the second leg on November 16.

The return tie is to be contested in Morocco because Senegal are barred from playing at home due to fan rioting during their last competitive meeting with the Ivorians.

If Didier Drogba and his side can hold out in Casablanca next month they will qualify for their third successive World Cup finals. This contrasts with Senegal who have failed to reach international football's premier competition since 2002 - where they made it to the quarter finals.

Despite their recent qualifying success, Ivory Coast failed to progress beyond the group stages in both Germany and South Africa.

However, The Elephants are widely considered to be the strongest African side and many believe have the greatest chance of going furthest in Brazil should they book their place.

Many of their squad will be familiar to followers of the Premier League. There were no fewer than eight Ivorians who have played in England's top flight called up to face Senegal. Notable star names included Drogba, Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure, Gervinho and Kalou.

With such a wealth of elite talent at their disposal, Ivory Coast have the potential to advance far in Brazil next year. If they qualify they will be looking for better luck in the draw, though. In the group stages in 2006 they were paired with Argentina and Holland and in 2010 they faced Brazil and Portugal.

Ghana flew the flag for Africa in 2010, with the Black Stars capturing the hearts of many in the process. Will next year signify the coming of age of The Elephants and will their golden generation finally live up the potential many expect?

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