Drogba still in doubt for Ivory Coast opener

Drogba still in doubt for Ivory Coast opener

Published Jun. 11, 2010 1:52 p.m. ET

Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba remains in doubt for the team's opening World Cup match against Portugal because of his broken arm.

Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said Friday that Drogba will work on his ball skills at practice later, but that physical contact with other players was not a risk worth taking at the moment.

"We can't risk any contact at this point," Eriksson told reporters.

Drogba was hurt in a friendly against Japan last Friday and had surgery a day later.


"He feels better and better," Eriksson said.

Eriksson conceded that Drogba's absence in Tuesday's opening Group G encounter in Port Elizabeth would be a big loss to the team but that he was working on "a B plan and a C plan as well."

"He's going to practice today but of course we have to be prepared for the worst," Eriksson said.

Ivory Coast is widely considered to be Africa's best hope of lifting the World Cup in a month's time. It is blessed with a wide array of talent, including Drogba's Chelsea teammate, Salomon Kalou, and Barcelona midfielder Yaya Toure.

However, it has been dealt an extremely tough-looking group - again.

After kicking off its World Cup schedule against 2006 semifinalist Portugal, Ivory Coast faces five-time winner Brazil. If it loses both games, then its seemingly easier match against North Korea could be made redundant.

"It's very difficult for all of us," Eriksson said.

This is Ivory Coast's second consecutive World Cup appearance. The team was also in what was considered the most difficult group in Germany in 2006, failing to get past the group stage following defeats against Argentina and the Netherlands.

Ivory Coast's preparations for the World Cup were complicated by the dismissal of coach Vahid Halilhodzic in February after a quarterfinal loss to Algeria at the African Cup of Nations, his first defeat in 24 games. Eriksson was appointed about a month later.

Eriksson, the Swede who coached England to the quarterfinals in both 2002 and 2006, said Spain and Brazil merited their positions as favorites for the tournament.

"If I bet 100 euros, 50 would be on Spain and 50 on Brazil," Eriksson said.