Salomon Kalou

How important is it for you that this World Cup is taking place now, in South Africa?? It is very important, because every country on the continent will be supporting every African team. You have this extra motivation to go and give everything because you have your people willing to support you to the end.??

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What positive effect do you think this tournament could have on African football? I think it can show a different aspect of African football. We have always known that Africa has great players, one by one. But we have never provided a team that can really compete with the European or South American teams. So we have an opportunity to show that football is progressing in Africa. I think now that if we play Brazil or Argentina we will have a chance to win. And that gives us confidence.??

A lot has been said about the Ivory Coast side with you, Drogba, Eboue – there's some great talent there. How good is this Ivory Coast as a team?? We have more experience since 2006. The players now have more experience playing in top teams, so they have learnt something from that. The African teams have individual talent, but the tactical side has never been so good. So we are working on that aspect. Now we want to show the world what we have learnt since the last World Cup. ??

What went wrong at the African Cup of Nations? Many tipped you to win it [they were beaten by Algeria in the quarter finals]...? When many people say you will win, it can sometimes be a trick. And that is what happened to us. People were expecting us to win and the other teams tried harder to block the Ivory Coast from playing. ??

What was it like in the squad after the Togo shooting?? Everyone was sad for the team. It happened to a team that was supposed to be in our group, so we felt like it had happened to us. We knew all the people – we play with some of the players. What touched them touched us.

It's sad that some people will use football for political reasons. As a footballer, you want to get out on the pitch to touch people. When you get that aspect of politics involved in football it is no longer the game you know and love. ??

The Ivory Coast has only recently emerged from civil war, but football seems to have a unifying affect on the country. How important is this national team for national unity? It's huge. You can tell. If we win then everything goes off; when we lose, people are so mad and upset. But it is understandable because the national team brings the name of the Ivory Coast to the very top. People in Ivory Coast love football and they love us. And because they love us, they expect a lot from us. ??

Last time you had a tough group, and this time you have the Group of Death [with Brazil, North Korea and Portugal]. Did you think, “Crikey, not again”, or “Brazil? Bring it on”? Before, we had Argentina, and this time Brazil. Last time we had Holland; this time, Portugal. So they are similar teams. It will be exciting playing them. It's the World Cup. You want to play the best teams. That's why they call it the World Cup. ??

How do you prepare for a team like North Korea? No one knows anything about them!? Well, it's lucky we play them last after the other two big teams. Against them [Portugal and Brazil] we will play relaxed, because we will know them and we want to play against the best. North Korea is different. Nobody knows any player in that team. So you will be expected to control the game. That is why it's difficult.??

Do you think you can win the World Cup? And how important is it for an African team to do well? I think that we can win the World Cup. We have a lot of things to learn. But it's important we do well for the continent, to show a good face of Africa – that Africa isn't just about fighting or war. Sometimes people get the wrong impression of Africa and this is a good chance to show people that there's not just a bad side to Africa. There is a good side too.

Interview: June 2010.

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