Developing story:

Soccer-Drogba could be big factor at World Cup, says coach

Reuters

By Mark Gleeson

FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil, Feb 19 (Reuters) - The Brazil World Cup offers Didier Drogba the chance of a perfect swansong and the opportunity to propel his country further in the tournament than ever before, Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi said on Wednesday.

Drogba, 35, will lead his country in their third World Cup finals appearance as the Ivorians strive to make it out of the group stage for the first time.

As age begins to catch up with the charismatic striker, who now plays in Turkey with Galatasaray, so too has the question of international retirement, and Lamouchi confirmed Brazil 2014 would be Drogba's last World Cup.

"For sure, the World Cup is going to be his last and he'll want to achieve," Lamouchi told Reuters at FIFA's World Cup workshop in the Brazilian coastal city of Florianopolis.

"For the Ivory Coast it is the third time to be at the World Cup and for this third adventure there is a sense that nothing is impossible.

"It's not complicated. Didier Drogba propels Ivorian football and the Ivory Coast team.

"He is an icon, not only in Abidjan and elsewhere in the country but also across Africa.

"He is a great player, a good man, a very intelligent person. He's a good professional, who contributes his part of the collective.

"He can be a big factor," he added.

Drogba, who has 60 goals in 98 appearances for his country, featured in two previous World Cup finals where Ivory Coast were handicapped by tough draws in both Germany in 2006 and South Africa four years ago.

PEAK CONDITION

Drogba's position in Lamouchi's squad has been threatened at times after he was dropped twice in the last 12 months amid local media reports of personality clashes.

The coach made it clear he would only pick Drogba at the peak of his condition, such is the competition for places in the Elephants' starting line-up.

"A team that does not change does not evolve," Lamouchi said of sidelining Drogba during last year's African Nations Cup finals and again for two back-to-back World Cup qualifiers last June.

"It was not something easy to do but we overcame the difficult challenges and now we work to the next goal."

On a team level Lamouchi said the Ivorians have set themselves the goal of advancing past the group stage in Brazil, where their opponents are Colombia, Greece and Japan in Group C.

"The Ivory Coast have not done this before and after that once you are in the knockout rounds there is a feeling that all is possible," he explained.

"Our match against Belgium next month will give us an indication of our potential because we're taking on a very talented and young team.

"We are preparing to play as best we can at the World Cup." (Editing by Mark Pangallo; mark.gleeson@thomsonreuters.com; +27 82 8257807; Reuters Messaging: mark.gleeson.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net; To sign up for our Global Sports Forum chatroom, click on https://forms.thomsonreuters.com/global_sports_forum)

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Football
View Comments (0)