Drogba upbeat that Ivory Coast will end Cup jinx
JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in South Africa on Saturday with Didier Drogba’s hugely gifted yet trophy-less Ivory Coast favourites once again to march off with the continental crown.
The competition has grown from humble beginnings into a global event watched by a TV audience running into hundreds of millions tuning in to be dazzled by the top players on the continent.
Aside, that is, from those conspicuous by their absence, including Samuel Eto’o’s Cameroon and seven-time champions Egypt.
South Africa, hosts of the 2010 World Cup, stepped in to stage this year’s renewal originally designated for Libya.
And over the next four weeks stadia in Soweto, Nelspruit, Rustenburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban will witness Drogba and company cross swords in pursuit of the honour of being crowned kings of Africa.
The 16 teams vying to walk off with the title on February 10 are also battling for a seat at the 2013 Confederations Cup table in Brazil in June, where world and European champions Spain, South American champions Uruguay and little Tahiti await the African champions.
For Drogba and his fellow Ivorians there is a frustrating sense of deja vu as the clock ticks towards Saturday’s curtain-raiser at Soweto’s Soccer City featuring South Africa against debutants Cape Verde.
The Ivory Coast are desperate to shed a reputation for falling short when it matters most, having
failed to justify their favourites’ tag in the last four editions.
Agonising penalty shoot-out defeats in the finals of 2006 against Egypt and last year against Zambia will only serve to motivate the Elephants in what is 34-year-old Drogba’s last throw of the Nations Cup dice.
“We have a team capable of great things at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations,” remarked the Chinese-based striker.
“It would be great to win the trophy now. Honestly, we are getting tired of losing out each time.
“We showed great solidarity against Senegal (in the qualifiers). We fought together, everybody gave of himself and this helped us to win.
“And now everybody expects a trophy. We hope to give the cup to our country.”
Africa’s top-ranked team, who lost out in 2012 despite remaining undefeated in regulation time, are drawn in Group D with former champions Algeria and Tunisia, and Togo.