As the final preparations are made ahead of the forthcoming African Cup of Nations finals, few coaches are feeling the pressure like Ivory Coast boss François Zahoui, who knows he must deliver success to one of the continents perennial underachievers.
The Éléphants have only won the AFCON title once, back in 1992, but with such a dearth of talent available to them, the need to end the trophy drought is stronger than ever. Key to this years challenge will be star names like Manchester City's Yaya Touré and Arsenal's Gervinho , as well as talismanic captain and chief goalscorer Dider Drogba . However, amid all the recognisable faces, there will be one little known front man looking to steal Drogba 's lime light, and fire the Ivory Coast to silverware.
He's CSKA Moscow striker Seydou Doumbia , who celebrates his 24th birthday today, having scored 24 goals in 30 games so far this term. It's just an example of his exciting scoring prowess, which, despite being recognised with a Russian Footballer of the Year award last week, is yet to tempt one of Europe's elite into acquiring his services.
But biding his time is nothing new for Doumbia ; his career has been all about a mixture of travelling and battling, in search for the best opportunities. Born in the up market; coastal town of Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast, he joined Athlétic Adjamé aged nine, before quickly moving through the ranks. He would go on to Toumodi FC on loan, before a switch to Denguélé allowed Doumbia the chance to flourish. He scored 15 goals in his début campaign, before an agent helped do a deal with J-League outfit Kashiwa Reysol . It was a sideways step.
Doumbia would struggle at Reysol , but still scored three times, while a loan move to Tokushima Vortis helped his adaptation further, until Swiss side Young Boys were put onto his promise. It was a club that put his developed back on track, and after repaying the faith with 50 goals in two seasons, a switch to the wealthy Russian Premier League with CSKA Moscow followed in January 2010.
Since then, Doumbia has continued his adaptation into a more rounded European forward, where he seems to improve week-by-week. Now, the forthcoming AFCON represents a perfect chance for interested parties to take a closer look, in a forward who has the raw abilities to fit most league's and styles.
Doumbia is a natural and instinctive striker, who thrives on unsettling defences with his speed, power and direct running style. He's often found lurking on the shoulder of the defender, where he can run in behind or find space to feed off scraps in the box. He's a real handful for any defender, but despite being five foot 10 inches tall, can't be snuffed out by the physical side. In fact, he has excellent strength, and more than holds his own.
In terms of other qualities, Doumbia is a hard worker, has intelligent movement, always finds spaces in the box, and can also drift wide and dribble the ball when necessary. However, this is a player all about scoring goals, and that's where his true talents shine through. In front of goal, he has good composure, is a confident and clinical finisher and can be explosive in tight situations. In the air, he's not the biggest, but attacks the ball well and has a good conversion rate.
Doumbia needs to work on aspects of his game such as his over reliance on his right foot, positional discipline and his link up play with team-mates, but all the signs are good.
Overall, Doumbia is not a technical all round centre forward, but a wily goal poacher, who knows how to unsettle defenders with his pace, power, strength and movement, while also having the clinical skills to finish chances off. He's a real handful, and used correctly, could prove to be the key piece in the Ivory Coast jigsaw next month.