Jon Super, Associated Press
FILE - In this Sunday April 3, 2011 file photo Manchester City's Yaya Toure of Ivory Coast celebrates scoring against Sunderland during their English Premier League soccer match at The City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester, England. Top-ranked African team Ivory Coast and World Cup quarterfinalist Ghana were already strong contenders for the African Cup, which kicks off on Saturday Jan 21, 2012, because of their star-studded squads. But the absence of former champions Egypt, Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa has made the Ivorians and Ghanaians the standout countries at this year's tournament, which will be co-hosted by West African neighbors Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Ivory Coast appears to be well-set after a perfect run of six wins from six games in qualifying as midfielder Yaya Toure emerged as the focal point for this campaign.

LIBREVILLE, Gabon — Ivory Coast is Africa's top-ranked team, it's anchored by the continent's best player and boosted by a perfect run in qualifying, and it's also the favorite to win the African Cup of Nations.

The star-studded squad, which has underperformed in the past, now has to prove its No. 1 ranking.

Without an African title for 20 years and following disappointing performances at the last two Cup of Nations and the 2010 World Cup, Ivory Coast is approaching a last-chance scenario for some its leading players — especially Chelsea striker Didier Drogba.