Sabri Lamouchi has challenged his Ivory Coast side to live up to their ‘golden generation’ billing and lift the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
The Elephants have been long considered as under-achievers, with their last Afcon triumph coming in 1992, while they failed to make an impact at the past two World Cups despite possessing a number of European-based stars in their ranks.
And Lamouchi, who was named as Ivory Coast head coach in May, believes it would be a travesty if the likes of former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba and Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure ended their careers without international honours.
“It’s true even though the team has everything it needs to do so,” Lamouchi told Fifa.com.
“Somehow, it has been a waste, and if this generation were to never win anything, it would be a huge waste.
“So to win the Afcon is our ambition, and I know my players are capable of it. They must take ownership of this project.
“For some of them, this is probably their last chance to win this competition. I believe in this group.
“Two Ivorians – Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure – are among five players nominated to receive the award for best African player this year.
“And Didier Drogba has been named in the list for the Ballon d’Or. So there are big individuals in this side.
“But it is the group that must make the difference, not just a few players. Take Spain: they have big names like (Andres) Iniesta, (David) Villa, Xavi and (Cesc) Fabregas, but despite that we most often talk about the quality of the collective.
“Note that I do not want to compare Cote d’Ivoire with Spain. It is just an example from which to take inspiration.”
Drogba, currently contracted to Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua after leaving the Blues in the summer, was recently knocked back in his attempts to return to Europe on a temporary basis, to which Lamouchi commented: “Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise.
“There are two ways to think about this issue: if he played somewhere before the Afcon, it could have allowed him to regain the pace of competition, but then playing would up his risk of injury and possibly jeopardise his participation at the finals.
“Didier is a great professional, so I know he will be ready for the competition. He might have to get up to speed, but he is conscientious and is very careful about his fitness.”
Although a former France international who plied his trade for clubs such as Marseille and Inter in his career, Lamouchi was considered a surprise appointment due to having no previous managerial experience.
But while he has gone some way towards proving the doubters wrong by starting his reign with four wins and two draws in his first six matches, his only focus is on trying to end the nation’s hoodoo in the African tournament.
“I accepted the criticism and doubts at the time of my appointment,” the 41-year-old remarked.
“I understood it because, after all, I had no coaching experience.
“One should not ignore their critics. But I spent many years as a player, so I am not a novice in this environment. There must be a first time.
“I do not know if I have convinced everyone, but I want to do everything I can to help these players realise this project. I pledge my credibility at every moment.
“We accept our status as favourites. When I was appointed in May to coach the Elephants, I was perfectly aware of the level of this team. It has great strength, with players who have won a lot with their clubs.”
Ivory Coast have been drawn alongside Togo, Tunisia and Algeria in the Afcon group stage, which kicks off on January 19.
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