Didier Drogba confessed his frustration at starting on the bench for the World Cup 2-1 win over Japan, but Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi insists he favours ?potential over age?.
The veteran 36-year-old striker made a game-changing second-half appearance to help rescue his side on Saturday who were trailing 1-0 for more than an hour of the Group C game.
?Yes, I am disappointed, of course,? said the former Chelsea striker who is seeing out his twilight club years with Galatasaray in Turkey.
?Who does not want to start a match at the World Cup? But I must respect those players who started the game.
?Decisive?? he asked of his late entry. ?If you say so. It was important to bring more to the team.?
Instead of concentrating on the enhanced chances of Ivory Coast now reaching the last 16 for the first time, Lamouchi found himself defending his selection.
Serge Aurier, 21, was the star of the game, providing the key passes for both goals but it was Drogba with his unflinching, muscular presence which caused panic amongst the Japanese.
Two minutes after his arrival, Wilfried Bony had pulled the Africans level and another two minutes on from that,
Gervinho grabbed the winner.
?I am a young coach, and I know that I don?t have experience. But with the qualities that these players possess, we have to look at potential not age,? said Lamouchi.
?Of course, the entry of Didier Drogba had been planned. A champion like him is always useful be it from the kick-off or not.
?His appearance changed the game. He brought in two or three players and the team created favourable situations.?
Lamouchi insisted he will not be swayed by public pressure to favour the likes of Drogba or even Yaya Toure who captained the side on Saturday having shaken off a hamstring injury.
?I am the coach of the Ivory Coast, not the coach of Yaya or Didier. I am fortunate to have these players,? he said.
?Didier was frustrated but when you see his joy at the goals scored and his input after coming on, nobody can doubt what a great champion he is.
?With competitors like these two, it?s much easier.?
Ivory Coast next face Colombia, who beat Greece 3-0 in their opener, on Thursday in Brasilia on the same night Japan tackle the Greeks in Natal.