An injury picked up in March meant the Sevilla midfielder was still in rehab when Sven-Goran Eriksson gathered his squad together. Such is Zokora's influence on the Côte d'Ivoire midfield, Eriksson will be hoping he makes a full recovery to match fitness in time for the start of the global tournament.
When the ‘Maestro’, as he is known in Côte d’Ivoire, is at the top of his game, Les Elephants can dominate in midfield, but when he struggles, the team’s balance and cohesion is upset.
Zakora partnered Kolo Toure in central defence at his first club, ASEC Abidjan, but flew the nest much earlier than the Manchester City defender. In 2000, he made the move to Belgium, not to Beveren like Yaya Toure, Romaric and Gervinho, but to Racing Genk. Over 30 appearances in each of his four seasons at the club made him one of the stalwarts of the Jupiler League, Belgium’s top flight. In the summer of 2004, two years after a historic title-winning season with Genk, he felt the need to move on to bigger things and joined Saint-Etienne. In France, he continued in the same vein, playing 35 matches in his first season and 31 in the next.
The Elephants’ vice-captain, who can play as a defensive midfielder, in central midfield, or even in the playmaking role, got his first taste of Premiership football in the summer of 2006. At Tottenham Hotspur, his consistent performances made him a leading light of the English top flight and a star at White Hart Lane. In 2008, he helped the London Club to win the League Cup, the only silverware he has won in his distinguished career apart from the Belgian title six years earlier. He even captained the Tottenham side on one occasion, in a UEFA Cup match in 2007/08.
Before he was injured in March, he had become a key member of the Sevilla team, where he was brought in as a replacement for Seydou Keita, the former idol of the Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium. At the Spanish club, Zokora, who has a tattoo on his right forearm in remembrance of his younger brother, has been reunited with his countryman Romaric.
Zakora has been a crucial part of the national side since the qualifying campaign for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, but has always taken a realistic view of a team that has struggled since 2005 to live up to the weight of expectation in the media and at home. He gave us this outspoken assessment in May 2008: "We’ve been there for almost ten years without winning anything. It’s frustrating. If we don’t win anything with this generation, it’s a huge waste. But you have to tell it like it is: perhaps we’ve overestimated ourselves. It’s all very well saying we’re the best African team, but if we don’t bring anything back to Côte d’Ivoire, it’s worth nothing. In football, you only remember the winners”. He followed this up with a warning that “the 2010 World Cup might be the last major competition for the generation that includes Drogba, Kolo Toure and myself. We’d like to win a trophy to go out on a high".