It was a surreal experience in Qinhuangdao when Gervinho turned up for his interview with FIFA.com. The striker and captain of the Côte d'Ivoire team brought an interpreter in tow - none other than Chelsea star Salomon Kalou. Yes, that's right, the man who commanded an £8m fee from Feyenoord to Chelsea was willing and extremely able to lend his team-mate a helping hand.
Things took a stranger twist, however, when Nigerian forward Victor Anichebe wandered in on the interview, curious as to what was going on at the FIFA.com office at the team hotel. The players exchanged friendly handshakes, just as they will do before the quarter-final clash, but both sides are single-minded in their pursuit of a semi-final place.
"It's a meeting between two very good African teams," said Gervinho, via the smiling Kalou. "We know their quality, they know our quality, but we haven't seen them play, so it's difficult to pass judgement on them. I'm sure it will be a good game between two evenly-matched teams."
But are the Ivorians still confident of grabbing the gold medal on offer next Sunday?
"Yes, we believe it," he said. "But the most important thing for us is to go step by step like we did before. We're focused on the game against Nigeria tomorrow - and we're going to try and win it. After that, we'll be in the semi-finals. ."
A product of the ASEC Abidjan academy, the 21-year-old Le Mans striker is wearing the skipper's armband for his team, much to the mock-chagrin of Kalou, who insists that 'he let him have it!' The unity between the players cannot be called into question, but the forward gave an interesting insight into the relationship between captain and coach.
"It's a great honour to wear the captain's armband," he smiled. "The fact that the manager [Gerard Gili] trusts me enough to give me the responsibility means a lot. He's trying to bring his methods to all of the Ivorian teams both on and off the pitch in an attempt to raise our standards. But the best thing about being the captain is having the support from my team-mates."
Comparisons and nicknames
Kalou smiled at the last comment, ruffling Gervinho's dreadlocked hair, with band, reminiscent of the style of Didier Drogba. Anyone who saw the striker play in the games against Argentina, Australia and Serbia will know that the comparison is not just down to looks, as he plays in the same pacy and bullish manner of his countryman.
"Everyone has his own style, but you know, Didier is the man back home - and all of the young players look to him and try to do as well as he has done," he continued. "He's a big influence on my career - I always try to learn from the best and he is a great example to any aspiring footballer."
And finally, why is a player born Gervais Yao Kouassi now called 'Gervinho'?
"When you get in the football squad at ASEC Abidjan they give you a nickname," he explained. "Because we have a Brazilian coach, we're given Brazilian names. So, everyone in this current squad has a nickname: mine is Gervinho, his [pointing to his interpreting team-mate] is Kalouno. It's basically a variation of your name. My full name is Gervais Yao Kouassi, so the Gervinho comes from Gervais. For me, the name has stuck."