Rustenburg — It might be premature to predict an end for Didier Drogba but there is no doubt competition for his place in Cote d'Ivoire's team means he can no longer rest on his laurels.
The African icon was benched on Saturday when his team put on a convincing showing to re-establish their credentials as tournament favourites with a 3-0 thumping of Tunisia.
Although two of the goals came in the final three minutes, the score line reflected the dominance of an Ivorian side who put a usually stingy Tunisia defence to the sword.
A reshuffle of the Ivorian defence, the addition of Cheikh Tiote to midfield to allow Yaya Toure to push further forward and the introduction of the lanky Lancina Traore for Drogba gave the side renewed vigour after their limp start last Tuesday, when they needed a late winner to overcome Togo.
Last night they outstripped the Tunisia defence through a vigorous opening 25 minutes with Toure and Gervinho at the heart of the flowing movement.
Tunisia had kept Algeria at bay with stout defending in their previous match but were made to look pedestrian.
The opening goal on 22 minutes from Gervinho was a classy finish as the shell-shocked Tunisians allowed the Ivorians to play cheeky passes inside their penalty area and finish off with aplomb.
Tunisia did have a few half-chances as they came back in the second half but there was never a sense the Ivorians would let their lead slip as they had threatened to do in their last game against Togo.
Drogba did come on for the final 24 minutes and sought to make a point about his value to the team, but after a few chances he reverted to the anonymity of his role in the previous match.
Questions about his future drew an annoyed response, but it could be that the fact the Ivorians did so well without him – in stark contrast to past Nations Cups – marks a changing of the guard.
The last two goals came late from Yaya Toure, due reward for his effort, and substitute Didier Ya Konan, with virtually his first kick of the ball.