With the Chelsea striker having retired from international football, his former club team-mate has called on the Elephants to show a united front in Equatorial Guinea
Salomon Kalou says the time has come for Cote d’Ivoire to stop relying on individuals and start focusing on the collective as they start their Africa Cup of Nations campaign against Guinea.
After near misses in 2006 and 2012, when Cote d’Ivoire lost finals to Egypt and Zambia respectively, Herve Renard’s men begin their latest attempt to win Africa’s showpiece in Tuesday’s Group D clash in Malabo.
Despite producing world-class talents such as Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure, Cote d’Ivoire have failed to add to their solitary Africa Cup of Nations triumph in 1992.
They will be unable to call on Drogba in the latest edition of the tournament, with the country’s record goalscorer having announced his international retirement last August.
Werder Bremen forward Kalou, a former team-mate of Drogba at Chelsea, feels the current crop of players have the chance to prove they are not over-reliant on the talent of certain individuals.
“It’s clear that, when you lose a major asset like Didier, people don’t see you as favourites so much because they reckon you’re less strong without him,” Kalou told FIFA.com.
“But we’re still a solid side and we can be even better collectively and win the tournament. At certain times in the past, perhaps we relied too much on our individual players to the detriment of the team.
“In a few of the easier games, that was enough for us to win, but each time we faced better organised sides like Egypt or Zambia, we had trouble getting through.
“They were well organised and had a strong team, and we tried to respond to that with the talent of our individual players. It caused us a lot of problems.”
Cote d’Ivoire, who should have Toure available despite the midfielder recently missing training as a precaution, have recent history on their side against Guinea.
Not since 1994 have Guinea triumphed in a fixture between the two teams, with Cote d’Ivoire having won seven of the last eight encounters.
However, Guinea showed their mettle by qualifying for the tournament from a difficult group that also included Ghana, Uganda and Togo.
The 1976 runners-up know they will have to be at their best to reach the knockout stages with matches against Cameroon and Mali also on the agenda.
Coach Michel Dussuyer will be unable to call on captain Kamil Zayatte as the centre-back has a leg injury.