World Cup 2014: Ageing Ivory Coast superstars know it is now or never

The likes of Didier Drogba know this is their last chance to impress

Ivory Coast  begin their campaign in the early hours of tomorrow morning, knowing that this might be the last chance for their greatest generation to make an impression on the international stage.

Sabri Lamouchi’s team take on Japan in Recife, at Brazil’s eastern-most tip. Group C is one of the more winnable quartets, with favourites Colombia restricted by the loss of lead striker Radamel Falcao. Ivory Coast have not progressed from the group stage in either of their two World Cups – 2006 and 2010 – and are desperate to do so this year.

Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba are two unambiguous greats of the game who have never quite translated their brilliance at club level into their national side. Aside from their performance at World Cups, Ivory Coast  have not won the African Cup of Nations since 1992. The Drogba generation could only make them runners-up twice, in 2006 and 2012.

 

Drogba is 36 now and his club career, at Galatasaray, is winding down. Yaya Toure is 31, and trying to shake off a thigh injury sustained at the end of last season. He will not be the same player at Russia 2018. Kolo Toure and Didier Zokora are both 33.

Lamouchi has insisted that he is not in awe of that generation, boasting last week of how he had benched Drogba. “‘There is no favouritism here,” Lamouchi said. ‘Before me, nobody had dared put Didier or Kolo (Toure) on the bench. I did it against Tunisia and we won 3-0. It was not to assert my power, but just to show that at certain moments, status is not enough. I am under no pressure to pick certain names.”

There are talented youngsters available, not least Toulouse’s explosive right-back Serge Aurier and Swansea City striker Wilfried Bony. But Drogba and Toure, champions of the highest class, will get one more shot.

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