RUSTENBURG, South Africa (Reuters) - Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba dismissed concerns he may not be in top form after starting Saturday’s African Nations Cup 3-0 win over Tunisia on the bench, the first time he was dropped in his international career.
Drogba was brought on for the final 25 minutes of the energy-charged Group D game but still failed to impress, and left it to his teammates Gervinho, Yaya Toure and Didier Ya Konan to ensure a second successive win for the Elephants at tournament.
Drogba last week said he was at only 50-60 percent of his fitness after finishing the season with Shanghai Shenhua in China at the start of November and then not playing for two months before reporting for Nations Cup preparations.
On Saturday he said he was fit to play throughout.
“I feel great. The coach picked his team, and we adapt and play,” Drogba told journalists.
“I‘m not the manager and it wasn’t my decision. Don’t try to make a big deal out of the fact that I was on the bench because it’s not.”
Kolo Toure, who had a bad game in defence on Tuesday when the much-fancied Ivorians opened their bid to win the continental championship with a narrow 2-1 win over Togo, was also benched.
Drogba has been a talismanic presence for the Ivorians over the years, with 56 goals in 91 appearances, but contributed little in their first match against Togo and was replaced with some 20 minutes left.
Former Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou took his place up front at the start of the second match but Drogba preferred to focus on his team’s title tilt.
For a fifth successive tournament, the Ivorians are favourites to win the title having twice been runners-up in the last four tournaments.
“We want to be in the same position as last time when we went to the final. We want to get there and see if we can change what happened in the past,” Drogba said.
“We hope to be here until February 10,” he said referring to the date of the final. “We will play our best and try to progress.”
The Ivorians, who also reached the semi-finals in 2008 and were knocked out in the last eight in 2010, face Algeria in their last group game in Rustenburg on Wednesday.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson and Agnieszka Flak