Essien trumpets The Elephants to win

Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien believes that the Ivory Coast are favourites to clinch the title at this year's Africa Cup of Nations.

Football News: Ivory Coast National Team

The Ghana international, who is unable to represent his home country in the competition due to a knee injury, believes that The Elephants pose a formidable threat to the other teams because of their star-studded team.

"Ivory Coast probably have the best squad at the tournament and they don't need any introduction." Essien wrote on his blog.

"They have some of the top players in African football and will be a match for any team.

"The spine of their team includes the likes of Drogba, the Toure brothers, Didier Zokora and Kalou. And let's not forget Gervinho who is doing very well at Arsenal and will be a handful for any defence."

Despite their undoubted talent, the Ivory Coast have only won the tournament once, back in 1992. Essien believes that if individuals play as well as for their national team as they do for their various clubs, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

"They always look strong on paper and although they have not won a tournament for a while and in actual fact haven't made the final in any recent tournament, it is difficult to see past them. If they can get their squad to click and play as they do in the various European Leagues for their clubs, then I can see them at least making the final."

The 29-year-old went on to praise his own side, pointing out that Ghana's mix of veterans and new blood - a combination which saw them almost bag a place in the 2010 World Cup semi-finals - could well give them the edge at this year's Africa Cup of Nations.

"The Ghanaian team is full of experienced tournament players mixed with hungry young players and that is a very good combination for this year's African Cup. There is captain John Mensah, Asamoah Gyan, Andre Ayew and Sulley Muntari among many other players." he said.

"This team knows how to play at tournaments and nearly made the semi-final at the last World Cup. They are a proper unit and play for the nation and that's why I fancy them to make the final and probably win it."

Essien also described teams Mali and Senegal as "surprise packages", with the presence of experienced players in both countries threatening to upset the odds.

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