Didier Drogba announced his retirement from the Ivory Coast National Football Team today. Drogba leaves the team as eight-year captain and its highest ever scorer, having scored on 65 occasions during a span of 104 appearances. He began his International career in 2002 during a game against South Africa and his first goal came against Cameroon during a 3-0 victory in 2003.
— Didier Drogba (@didierdrogba) August 8, 2014
Drogba’s career is synonymous with the brightest ever patch of Ivory Coast football. Les Elephants had never reached the World Cup Finals prior to his first cap in 2002, and he has since led them to the 2006, 2010 and 2014 finals. Though they have never gone past the group stages, the opportunity to compete amongst the world’s best on the grandest of platforms has provided positive exposure. Drogba started on the bench during this year’s Finals but his impact was clearly visible. He came on as a late substitute during the Ivory Coast’s opening match in which they trailed 1-0 to Japan; within five minutes of his arrival, the Ivorians scored two goals to win the match at 2-1. During the tournament, Ivory Coast scored four goals in 136 minutes with Drogba on the pitch but could not score a single one in 134 minutes without him.
The Ivory Coast squad still has lots of promise within their remaining core. Players such as Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony, Salomon Kalou, Cheik Tiote and Gervinho should be able to keep them grounded; finding a replacement for Drogba, however, may prove to be an impossibility. The statistics alone speak for themselves, but apart from that, he is a leader, motivator and his presence on the pitch can still strike fear into the best defenders on the planet. Already a few years past his prime, Drogba is still a world-class player; he recently made a sensational return to Chelsea FC, the team where he is most famous for his exploits. It is evident that the Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho still sees him as a valuable asset who could still score important goals.
Drogba has been named Ivory Coast Player of the Year on three occasions and African Footballer of the Year on two occasions. He is one of the greatest strikers ever to kick a football and has attained legendary status both at club and International level. He leaves the Ivory Coast National Team in much better shape than he found it, and he is probably chiefly responsible for their ascent. Drogba has decided to end his adventure with the team and make way for younger prospects. Someone has huge boots to fill, but I fear that they may forever remain void.