Drogba unsure of future with Ivory Coast
JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba is unsure of his international future after a shock weekend exit from the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations his country were favoured to win.
Drogba, the 34-year-old former Chelsea striker playing in the African football showcase for the last time, was well policed as Nigeria won the quarter-final 2-1 in north-western mining town Rustenburg.
Ivory Coast have been favourites for five consecutive Africa Cup tournaments, but the closest they came was finishing runners-up to 2006 hosts Egypt and 2012 surprise side Zambia.
After this string of failures, there has been widespread media speculation about the futures of ‘golden oldies’ like Drogba, goalkeeper Boubacar Barry and centre-backs Kolo Toure and Didier Zokora.
“It is over,” was the terse response of Drogba to reporters when asked about the Africa Cup of Nations.
In the 2012 final in Gabon, Drogba he blazed over a regular-time penalty, allowing Zambia to force a 0-0 draw after extra time.
But despite Drogba making amends by converting a shootout spot-kick, Zambia won 8-7 on penalties for one of the most stunning Africa Cup final shocks.
“We must now look ahead to the 2014 World Cup qualifying competition — with or without me,” added the striker, who recently signed an 18-month contract with leading Turkish club Galatasaray.
The shattered Ivory Coast stars prepared to head home Monday and turn their attention to the 2014 World Cup qualifying competition, starting with a home fixture against lightweights Gambia late March.
They visit Gambia and Tanzania during June and host Morocco in September and the group winners advance to a two-leg play-off for one of five African places at the World Cup in Brazil.
Ivory Coast started their campaign last year with a routine 2-0 home victory over Tanzania followed by a 2-2 draw in Morcoco, giving them a one-point Group C lead.
Coach Sabri Lamouchi took Drogba off against Togo in the opening game, axed him for the second group match against Tunisia, recalled him into a virtual reserve team that faced Algeria, and chose him to start against Nigeria.
He had only one scoring chance against the Super Eagles, controlling a cross with his chest and the shot was deflected wide with the Algerian referee ignoring legitimate appeals for a corner.
Drogba has been playing for Shanghai Shenhua in the China Super League, which finished last November, leaving the Ivory Coast captain short of match practice before the Africa Cup.