Drogba skips Ivory Coast practice to visit doctors

SHARPEVILLE, South Africa (AP) — Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba missed a World Cup training session with his teammates Saturday to receive further treatment on his broken right arm.

A spokesman said the striker missed Saturday's practice to visit team doctors.

Drogba is hoping to be fit for Ivory Coast's opening match against Portugal in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday after breaking the arm in an exhibition match against Japan on June 4. He had surgery a day later.

Drogba trained with the team the past two days, but wore a protective cast as he worked on his ball skills and fitness.

After the training session, midfielder Didier Zokora said he was unsure when Drogba might play, but insisted Drogba is in good spirits.

"Even if he's not playing with us every time, he's the captain and he leads the team very, very well," Zokora said.

Ivory Coast is widely considered Africa's best hope of lifting the World Cup. It is blessed with a wide array of talent, including Drogba's Chelsea teammate, Salomon Kalou, and Barcelona midfielder Yaya Toure.

Kolo Toure, the Manchester City defender and older brother of Yaya, said Ivory Coast had to start delivering with or without Drogba after years of failing to build on its promise.

He said Sven-Goran Eriksson, the newly appointed coach who took England to the quarterfinals in both 2002 and 2006, has made the team realize it has badly underperformed.

"He just knew what is missing in our team, because we have great players but we can't jell," Toure said. "At the moment we are working on team spirit because that's the most important. Ivory Coast have not been doing that, and we hope that for this World Cup we are going to be together and fight for each other and try and get the result."

Eriksson was appointed in March following the dismissal of coach Vahid Halilhodzic after a quarterfinal loss to Algeria at the African Cup of Nations. The Swede has spent lots of time talking with the players in recent weeks, trying to develop the camaraderie Toure spoke of.

"For some time instead of thinking about the team, (we have been) thinking about ourselves. Mr. Eriksson came in and said if we wanted to be one of the best teams in this World Cup, we need to work together," Toure said.

Ivory Coast faces an uphill task to get through Group G. As well as playing 2006 semifinalist Portugal, Ivory Coast takes on five-time winner Brazil. If it loses both games, then its seemingly easier match against North Korea could be meaningless.

"I think the group is very tough ... we know we are outsiders," Toure said.

This is Ivory Coast's second consecutive World Cup appearance. The team was also in a difficult group in Germany in 2006, going out in the group stage following defeats against Argentina and the Netherlands.