Drogba says not 'a big deal' that he was benched
RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP)
Captain Didier Drogba says he wasn't upset at starting on the bench in Ivory Coast's 3-0 win over Tunisia at the African Cup of Nations on Saturday.
Hoping to shake up the team after a disappointing performance in the opener, coach Sabri Lamouchi removed Drogba and three others from the starting lineup for the Group D match in Rustenburg.
Drogba didn't enter the match until the 67th minute with Ivory Coast leading 1-0, prompting loud cheers from the crowd that was caught by surprise by his absence at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
Drogba, probably having his last chance to win a title with his national team, said he didn't expect an explanation from Lamouchi.
''There is nothing to say,'' Drogba said. ''He picks his team and we adapt and we play. That's the same for everyone. Don't try to make it a big deal because I was on the bench, because it's not. Really not.''
Drogba said he was fine physically despite admitting he has yet to reach his top form after joining Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua.
''I felt great,'' he said. ''Really, was a fantastic game to watch and a pleasure to come in and to help the teammates win this game.''
The striker didn't have many good chances in the minutes he played. He failed to secure possession after a pass by Gervinho just a few moments after getting into the match, and in the 71st he committed a foul while fighting for the ball inside the box.
Despite his lackluster play in the opener, when he was substituted off in the 74th, Drogba's absence was not expected. He was replaced by Salomon Kalou, who had a goal disallowed because of offsides in the 56th before coming out near the end of match.
The biggest star entering the tournament, Drogba's has never been significantly doubted as a starter for Ivory Coast, a team for which he has scored more than 50 goals in nearly 100 starts. The captaincy for the Tunisia game was handed to Didier Zokora.
The other regular starter absent from the lineup was Manchester City midfielder Kolo Toure, who made defensive mistakes against Togo. Lamouchi added Lacina Traore, Ndri Romaric and Cheik Tiote to the lineup in Saturday's match.
Gervinho, Yaya Toure and substitute Didier Ya Konan scored for Ivory Coast, which is in good position to advance to the quarterfinals. The Elephants haven't won the African title since 1992. They lost last year's final to Zambia in a penalty shootout.
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