Call for Drogba to start gets louder

Wilfried Bony has usurped the 36-year-old in the national team’s pecking order.

Didier Drogba. Picture: AFP.

SALVADOR - The clamour for Didier Drogba to be restored to the Ivory Coast starting lineup will resound even louder after the Africans lost to Colombia at the World Cup on Thursday.

To the dismay of Ivorian media and fans alike, Drogba has been used off the bench in their opening two Group C matches, playing a decisive role in the first game against Japan but proving relatively ineffectual in the 2-1 loss to Colombia.

Although Drogba's relegation to the bench has been blamed on his conditioning by coach Sabri Lamouchi, it had been clear for some time that Wilfried Bony had usurped the 36-year-old in the national team's pecking order.

It was a controversial, if somewhat gutsy, decision by a young coach keen to stamp his imprint on a side filled with strong personalities, but seemingly struggling to get going without Drogba's presence on the pitch.

Bony scored in the 2-1 win over Japan in Recife last weekend but only after Drogba had come on, with his mere presence seeming to inject confidence into the Ivorian ranks and a little apprehension amongst the opposition.

But his entry against Colombia in Brasilia did not have the same effect with the South Americans scoring two quick goals to effectively seal the result.

The case for Drogba to start is strengthened by his showing in their last warm-up friendly against El Salvador in Dallas earlier this month where his combination play with Gervinho delivered a first-half goal for each of them in a 2-1 win.

INTIMIDATING SIGHT

With the Ivorians seeking a victory in their last group game against Greece in Fortaleza on Tuesday to guarantee a place in the next round, starting Drogba may be a more effective option.

His record for his country is unrivalled with 63 goals in 103 appearances and, even if unlikely to complete a full 90 minutes, his presence would be an intimidating sight for Greece.

The issue also has the potential to fester if post-match responses on Thursday to questions about Drogba starting as a substitute are any indicator.

A tetchy Lamouchi said: "This is only the second game that Drogba has been on the bench. We will not fixate on it."

The player himself told reporters: "Why always questions about me? You want to sensationalise things but the most important thing is the team."

However, asked if he felt frustrated, Drogba added: "That's personal. I cannot always express what I feel. It's the choice of coach and I respect that."

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