Drogba absence shines spotlight on youngsters

JOHANNESBURG - Didier Drogba's possible absence for Ivory Coast's opening World Cup match against Portugal on Tuesday will give a golden opportunity to younger players to grab the limelight, according to defender Kolo Toure.

Toure, who will captain the Ivorians in Port Elizabeth if Drogba does not play, said younger players, like Salomon Kalou and Seydou Doumbia, had the ability to step into the void, the Ivorian Football Federation's website reported him as saying on Sunday.

Drogba, who broke his forearm last week in the Ivorians' last warm-up game against Japan during their training camp in Switzerland, has travelled with the squad to South Africa, accompanied by the Swiss surgeon who operated on him eight days ago in Berne.

But he has not trained since the team arrived at their base at Vereeniging, some 90km south of Johannesburg, the federation said.

The Ivorians are hoping he will recover in time but have not released any medical bulletins on his progress, leaving it a guessing game in the build-up to Tuesday's match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

"The Ivorian squad is made up of some world class players but football remains a team game," Toure said, also praising the work of new coach Sven Goran Eriksson, who has had just three weeks to prepare the side for the tournament in South Africa.

"Since he has taken over the squad, the coach has been trying to build a proper team and we are on track," the defender said.

Among Eriksson' innovations has been a decision to shift midfield general Didier Zokora to defence, a strategy he declared a success after experimenting in last week's friendly against Japan in Nyon. The Ivorians won the match 2-0.

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