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15 Jun 2010 08:33
Côte d’Ivoire captain Didier Drogba appears to be winning his race against time to be fit to play in Tuesday’s Soccer World Cup Group G curtain raiser against Portugal.
Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, while stressing no decision about the Chelsea star’s participation would be made until a couple of hours before kick-off, sounded optimistic.
“Didier did an excellent training session yesterday [Sunday] and will train again with the whole squad this evening.
“I hope he’ll be okay, I hope he will be there, but I honestly don’t know for sure.
“The only one to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is really himself.”
Remarkably swift recovery
If Drogba does play it would represent a remarkably swift recovery from the injury—which required surgery—he suffered in a warm-up match against Japan on June 4.
Drogba paved the way to play by having his arm support that he must wear inspected by Fifa officials including Tuesday’s match referee, Uruguay’s Jorge Larrionda, in Port Elizabeth on Monday afternoon.
Eriksson added: “It’s only ten days since he broke his arm, it’s maybe a short time, but we hope he can play tomorrow. He will take part in the tournament.”
Drogba’s teammate, Barcelona midfielder Yaya Toure, underlined the importance of having the African superstar on the pitch against Portugal, a country ranked third in the world and which reached the semi-finals of the last World Cup.
“We need him back,” said Toure.
‘We need him’
“Didier’s a very important player for us.
He’s our captain, we need him.
Drogba was later seen to be warming up with the rest of the squad normally before Monday evening’s pre-match training session, swinging his arms about and apparently feeling no discomfort from his injured limb.
The 32-year-old striker’s presence would be a huge bonus for Côte d’Ivoire who are aiming to become only the second African team after Ghana to win their opening match on this the first World Cup on the African continent.
Côte d’Ivoire are the last of the six ‘home’ teams to make their appearance—South Africa drew the opening match with Mexico, Algeria lost to Slovenia, Nigeria lost to Argentina, and Japan felled Cameroon.
Only Ghana, who beat Serbia, have managed to take three points.
Toure reflected: “The standard of teams is very high at this World Cup but I hope we can do it.
“This is only our second World Cup. In 2006 [when the Elephants failed to get past the first round] we didn’t have the experience that we have now.” I want to do everything to win at least one game.”—AFP
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