Didier Drogba is desperate to showcase a different side of Africa at next year's FIFA World Cup™, after helping Côte d'Ivoire qualify with a 1-1 draw in Malawi at the weekend. The Chelsea striker, one of the continent's top players in recent years, fittingly scored the decisive goal in Blantyre, helping the Elephants claim the point they needed to finish top of Group E.
It means Drogba and his team became the second team from Africa to qualify for the global spectacle, alongside Ghana, who sealed their berth during the previous round of matches. The pair will join hosts South Africa and three other countries from the continent, with the main emphasis for the 31-year-old being to leave a mark on world football - hopefully in the form of a dream run to the final.
"It is going to be a challenge," he said. "To make it to the final will not be easy because there are great teams like Brazil and Germany, who have won the World Cup for many years.
"But my team-mates and I want to make history and want to change the way the world sees African football. I hope that we'll be the team that is going to go to the final and win the competition."
The African Footballer of the Year 2006, who was only on the field as a substitute three minutes prior to scoring the equaliser on Saturday, is also pleased with the progress being made on the ground in South Africa - the first nation on the continent to ever stage the FIFA World Cup.
"Let's do everything to show people a different Africa," he said. "I was here in South Africa for the FIFA Confederations Cup in June and everything was perfect. The stadiums are good and the people in South Africa are very friendly."
Côte d'Ivoire team-mate Yaya Toure was thrilled to have qualified, and was hoping to do much better than they did at the last tournament in Germany, where they were pooled in a tough group. "It's not going to be easy, as there are no small teams in the competition," he warned.
"Every team is competitive and it will be a challenge if we play teams like Brazil or Argentina. At the last World Cup we played really well in Germany, but we were unlucky because we were in a very tough group with Argentina and Holland and so went out in the first round."
"But I think with this kind of experience, it will be possible at South Africa 2010 to do much better. Perhaps we can make the quarter-finals and then semi-finals, this is something we can achieve."
Coach Vahid Halilhodzic was also pleased to have sealed their berth at South Africa 2010. "We are very proud to participate in the World Cup for the second consecutive time and this time it is going to be better," he added with optimism.