BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Didier Drogba may have to get used to playing the role of super-sub for Ivory Coast at the World Cup.
The two-time African Player of the Year started on the bench against Japan in Ivory Coast's opener but his introduction in the second half turned the match around, inspiring a comeback from 1-0 down to a 2-1 victory.
There have been calls for Drogba, the country's most famous player, to be recalled for Thursday's match against Colombia but coach Sabri Lamouchi wouldn't say whether the 36-year-old striker had done enough to merit starting.
"I am in charge of a group, not one player," Lamouchi said Wednesday through a translator. "If you are talking to me about an idol like Didier, he knows how important he is to the team.
"We are in complete agreement — obviously he might be disappointed not to start, but his investment in the group shows he is very dedicated."
Despite Drogba's 12-year international experience, pedigree and proven appetite for the big occasion, Lamouchi had concerns about the player's match sharpness and opted to start with Wilfried Bony as the lone striker against Japan.
Within four minutes of coming on, though, Drogba's presence had helped the Ivorians score two goals.
There has only been one topic of conversation since, and Lamouchi can't get away from it.
"The objective is to prepare for this match against a strong Colombia team," said Lamouchi, as yet another question was fielded about Drogba. "We don't want to lose our concentration and think about other things. We want to prepare to play this great team."