Bony ready to be lead man

This Africa Cup of Nations is Ivory Coast’s first major international tournament since Didier Drogba retired from international football. Now it's the £28 million Wilfried Bony who will bear the responsibility of leading the line instead.

The Manchester City man, along with Gervinho of Roma, will shoulder the burden of converting any chances the Elephants create at the Equatorial Guinea finals.

Bony, who made his Ivory Coast debut in 2010, has been mainly playing a bit-part role with his national team, with prolific hitman Drogba stealing the limelight.

“Drogba is no longer there, but the pressure remains the same on the Côte d'Ivoire. We must get results,” Bony told in an interview in October.

Salomon Kalou says that Drogba is irreplaceable, but trusts Bony to still cause problems.

“There is only ever one Drogba,” he insisted. “Bony can be the best Bony, but Drogba is always going to be Drogba. Didier is an emblematic figure. He is not someone you can replace overnight.

“However, Wilfried is a very powerful striker who can give defenders a hard time. He doesn’t say much, but for someone who is quiet he is kind of scary, you don’t want to mess with him.”

Both Drogba and Didier Zokora  retired from internationals after the last World Cup. This puts more  responsibility on the likes of Kalou, the Touré brothers and Gervinho.

“When players like Zokora and Drogba leave it is very hard to fill their shoes,” added Kalou. “We have to build a team, and we are the players who can help the young players feel good. It is a new challenge for us.”

Kalou identifies the young players as Roger Assale, a “very quick, very dynamic” winger, Serge Aurier, the Paris Saint-Germain right-back and striker Tallo Gadji.

This new young Ivory Coast also have a different manager with Herve Renard, who won the 2012 Cup of Nations with Zambia at the helm.

“Renard is a coach with a lot of character, who makes things happen,” said Kalou.   

Having lost the final on penalties in 2006 and 2012 but Kalou believes this could be their year. “Sometimes it is not the right time to win,” he said. “Football is about the right timing. We always believe.”

The challenge for Bony and the team starts with the game against Guinea in Malabo.

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