FIFA World Cup 2010: Didier Drogba's Comeback Attempt One for the Ages

Ron FurlongAnalyst IIJune 11, 2010

TAMALE, GHANA - FEBRUARY 6: Didier Drogba during the Ivory Coast training session held at Tamale Stadium February 6, 2008 in Tamale, Ghana. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Gallo Images/Getty Images

Think of some of the all-time great moments in sports history when an injured player sucked it up and came through.

Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series limping up to the plate and then hitting the infamous game-winning home run off Dennis Eckersley.

Tiger Woods winning the U.S. Open on one leg in 2008.

John Lester throwing his no-hitter for the Red Sox after overcoming cancer (not really overcoming an injury, granted, but damn inspiring).

The list is endless. But they all may be topped by one man at this year's World Cup.

If Didier Drogba comes running onto the pitch Tuesday in South Africa to play for the Ivory Coast against Portugal, it may be a moment for the ages.

Drogba broke his arm in a tune-up game for the Ivory Coast versus Japan last week, and then had surgery on the arm a day later.

Drogba was practicing with the team on Thursday, but Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was cautious in this press conference later.

"If the match had been today or tomorrow," Erikkson said, "he wouldn't be able to play. But in a few days. He might play."

One must consider how important Drogba is, not only to his team in this difficult Group G in which they find themselves, but back home in the Ivory Coast.

The 32-year-old Chelsea striker, who had a great season in leading Chelsea in the English Premier League Title, has his image painted on the sides of buildings throughout the Ivory Coast. Kids and adults alike walk the streets in Chelsea t-shirts and jerseys with Drogba's name written on them.

He is a hero in a land unlike few others in the world.

Arguably one of the top two or three strikers in the game, his ability to put the ball in the net is uncanny. His strength in winning balls near the goal, and then a precision touch to follow is what sets him apart.

The broken arm was a devastation to the country. Their hopes had been dashed. Surely this was the end.

They did find themselves, after all, in the toughest group in South Africa. Group G, with Brazil and Portugal the favorites, was a difficult enough challenge with Drogba. Without him, it was perhaps impossible.

The chance alone that he may play has brought this nation back together.

Drogba told Sportsworld, on the BBC World Service: "The expectation back home is really high. Most of our players play for big teams and have won things with big teams. But for the country we have won nothing.

"People speak about this generation being the best in Ivory Coast for years and that is why the expectation is so high, higher than in France or England.''

It is not like the Ivory Coast has no other talent. They are a good, deep team. They have two other great scoring threats in Gervinho and Salomon Kalou, Drogba's teammate with Chelsea. They also have a strong defense, led by Emmanuel Eboue of Arsenal.

But they need Drogba. He is their leader, their heart and soul. You simply cannot replace this kind of talent.

If indeed Didier Drogba plays against Portugal, no matter the outcome, it will be one of the great comebacks in sports history, certainly in World Cup history.

If Drogba cannot go against Portugal, five days later they take on Brazil, the other monster team of Group G, in their second game. If indeed they end up losing that first game to Portugal without Drogba, you can bet Didier will do everything in his power to be out there for that must win.

Just try and stop him.


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