MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, January 20 – Ivorian striker Salomon Kalou has said it is “difficult to imagine” the Africa Cup of Nations without two former African Footballer of the Year winners, Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba..
Kalou, despite being forced to compare the two African stars’ rivalry to that of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, feels that Cameroon and Ivory Coast – the two countries from which Eto’o and Drogba respectively come from, still have some other big names to shine at the Afcon in Equatorial Guinea.
The 29-year-old forward believes the absence of Drogba and Eto’o will not affect the “big rivalry” between Cameroon and Ivory Coast.
“Yes it’s true you could describe it like that,” Kalou said of Drogba and Eto’o in an interview with Fifa.com. It’s difficult to imagine. But it’s a little like if you tried a few years ago to imagine Barca without Ronaldinho and Real (Madrid) without Zinedine Zidane and yet today we have Messi and Ronaldo.
“Both teams always have new players who come in and take over. Even if the two teams will miss Didier and Samuel greatly, a match between Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon is always huge and it’s been that way for a while. There’s a big rivalry between the sides and that will carry on, even after the retirement of those two great players.”
However, the Hertha Berlin striker doesn’t take anything away from Drogba and Eto’o, stating that they are “the success of an entire continent.”
He added that the two strikers have given their all to the game in Africa.
“Both players pushed African football beyond its limits. Today, Eto’o and Drogba represent not just Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon but the success of an entire continent, and they’ve set an example for youngsters across the whole of Africa, and not just in football.
“The fact that they experienced success with their countries and also the big clubs they’ve played for has opened doors for all of us,” Kalou said.
Without Drogba in the Ivorian setup for this Afcon, Kalou dismissed talks of the Elephants being “less strong without him (Drogba)”.
Indeed, Kalou feels the Ivory Coast could go on to win the 2015 Afcon without Drogba, who turned down the chance to play for his nation on the premise of leaving the stage for younger players.
“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. 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,” said the former Chelsea man.
Ivory Coast begin their AFCON campaign against Guinea in the Equatorial Guinean capital, Malabo, on Tuesday.
– courtesy of SuperSport-