DIDIER Drogba left Africa’s football stage on Sunday night for the last time after Ivory Coast were eliminated 2-1 in a shock defeat by Nigeria in the quarterfinals of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
Drogba made his debut for Ivory Coast in a World Cup qualifier against Bafana in 2002 – a goalless draw in Abidjan – and has been to six Nations Cups where Ivory Coast failed to prevail, coming closest last year when they lost to Zambia.
The last time Ivory Coast, a football powerhouse in Africa, won Afcon was in 1992, when Drogba was about to turn 18.
“It’s all over,” said a downcast Drogba on Sunday night after the match in Rustenburg.
He said it was now time for Ivory Coast to channel their energies into qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. They are in Group C along with Tanzania, Morocco and Gambia. After a win and a draw, they head the group on four points.
“We are now going to focus on the World Cup, even if I’m not there.”
The Ivorians went into this Nations Cup the hot favourites.
Besides Drogba, other world-class players who were in the Ivorian team which failed to emulate the success of their Class of 1992 include Yaya and Kolo Toure, Salomon Kalou, Emmanuel Eboue and Didier Zakora.
The golden generation of Ivorian players featured twice in finals of the last four Nations Cups.
Along with Drogba, one of the saddest players in the Ivory Coast team was former Mamelodi Sundowns defender Siaka Tiene. “I was hoping I could return to South Africa and help my country win the Nations Cup,” said a heartbroken Tiene.