Côte d'Ivoire qualified through a qualifying group which included African powerhouses Cameroon and Egypt, despite losing home and away to the former. On the last day of qualification, they confirmed their spot with a 3–1  win over Sudan, while Cameroon faltered and could only manage a 1–1 draw at home to Egypt.
The qualification of the Côte d'Ivoire national football team even brought about a temporary peace agreement during the First Ivorian Civil War. The team helped to secure a truce in 2006 when they qualified, bringing warring parties together, and convinced President Laurent Gbagbo to restart peace talks.
Côte d'Ivoire lost their opening game 2–1 in the 2006 World Cup in Germany to Argentina. The goals for Argentina came from Hernán Crespo and Javier Saviola. Côte d'Ivoire's goal came from Chelsea striker Didier Drogba. They lost their second match to the Netherlands by the same scoreline and were thus eliminated from the tournament. The Netherlands' goals came from a Robin van Persie free-kick in the 23rd minute and a Ruud van Nistelrooy strike in the 27th minute. Bakari Koné scored in the 38th minute for the Africans to pull the score to 2–1. Côte d'Ivoire's final game was against Serbia and Montenegro. The Serbian team scored two quick goals and it appeared that the Côte d'Ivoire was destined for a three-loss World Cup campaign. However, the Africans came back, led by two goals from Aruna Dindane, and won the game 3–2 to finish in third place.
The Côte d'Ivoire team is notable for having participated in (and won) the two highest-scoring penalty shoot-outs in international football competition – the 24-shot shoot-out in the final of the 1992 African Cup of Nations when Ghana was defeated 11–10, and the 24-shot shoot-out in the quarter-final of the 2006 African Cup of Nations, when Cameroon was defeated 12–11.
After Uli Stielike left before the Africa Cup 2008, due to his son's health situation, Gerard Gili, the co-trainer, took his position. To compensate of the lack of another co-coach, Didier Drogba acted as a player-coach. This was only the second time that a player had also acted as coach in the Africa Cup, after George Weah was both player and coach for Liberia during the 2002 tournament.
In both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, Côte d'Ivoire were placed in a so-called "Group of Death." In 2006, Côte d'Ivoire faced Argentina, Netherlands and Serbia and Montenegro; Argentina and Netherlands reached the Round of 16. In 2010, Côte d'Ivoire was drawn with Brazil, Portugal, and North Korea. Côte d'Ivoire finished third in Group G, as Brazil and Portugal progressed.