Drogba ready to take centre stage again
Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba plans to live up to his reputation
as the man for the big occasion by out-gunning his rivals for the World
Cup golden boot.
Drogba is already well-established as Chelsea’s talisman on
football’s grandest stages after his seventh goal in six cup final
appearances clinched a 1-0 victory over Portsmouth in this season’s FA
Now the 32-year-old striker believes he is capable of emulating those
heroics with his country in South Africa.
Sven Goran Eriksson’s side have been drawn in a group which would
make less confident players quake in their boots as they prepare to face
five-time world champions Brazil and a serious title contender like
But Drogba will lead the Ivory Coast into battle brimming with
confidence after the best season of his life.
He finished ahead of Wayne Rooney as the Premier League’s top scorer
with 29 goals thanks to a title-clinching hat-trick against Wigan on the
final day of the season.
Six goals against Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool this
season proved that even some of England’s best defenders were no match
for Drogba at his ferocious best.
If he can continue that form over the next month, the Ivory Coast
have a chance of ending Africa’s long wait for a first World Cup winner
and Drogba is sure to be heading the tournament’s scoring charts. “I
really hope so. If we can get through the group stages, I think we have
a very strong chance,” Drogba said.
“It’s important that we do well as a nation, but if I can win the
World Cup Golden Boot as well, then it would be amazing.” The likes of
Rooney, Lionel Messi, Fernando Torres and Luis Fabiano are likely to
light up the tournament with their own unquestionable talents, but few
can match Drogba’s potent combination of muscular power and lethal
Not only is Drogba going into the World Cup bolstered by his role in
Chelsea’s first ever Premier League and FA Cup double, but he also has
the additional motivation of making amends for his last appearance in
the global showpiece.
In 2006 in Germany, Drogba was hampered by a knee injury as the
Elephants failed to qualify from a tough group which included Argentina,
Holland and Serbia.
Drogba scored his side’s first ever World Cup finals goal in their
defeat against Argentina, but he was suspended for the last group game
and then coach Henri Michel admitted the striker’s lack of form had been
instrumental in the the disappointing results.
That let-down was one of the few low point in a career which has
steadily risen to ever greater heights since Drogba made his debut for
French club Le Mans in 1998.
At one stage in his teenage years it seemed Drogba was heading for a
life as an accountant but he signed his first professional contract with
Le Mans at 21 and never looked back.
A move to Guingamp for a transfer fee of just 80,000 pounds in 2002
was the defining moment in Drogba’s development.
The Ivorian began to show flashes of the bruising style that now
terrorises defenders across the world.
Marseille were impressed enough to sign Drogba in 2003 and he
responded to the challenge of playing for one of France’s top clubs by
scoring 19 goals in 35 appearances as the Stade Velodrome outfit reached
the UEFA Cup final.
Drogba’s form had been noted by Jose Mourinho during a Champions
League clash against his Porto team, so when the Portuguese coach took
over at Chelsea in 2004 he had no hesitation paying 24 million pounds to
sign the forward.
Mourinho’s hunch paid off spectacularly as Drogba overcame initial
objections about his diving and proved perfect for the frenetic and
physical Premier League.
His 16 goals helped clinch Chelsea’s first league title for 50 years
as well as the League Cup.
Another title followed a year later and the FA Cup was won in 2007 by
Drogba’s extra-time strike aganst Manchester United.
When Mourinho was forced out, Drogba wept tears of frustration as he
said goodbye to a man he had come to regard as a father-figure, but he
eventually refocused and the medals kept coming. Now he is targeting the
greatest prize of all.
LONDON, Friday AFP