BATA, Equatorial Guinea (Reuters) - Yaya Toure remains much of an enigma at international level but glimpses of his club form at the African Nations Cup is a major boon for Ivory Coast as they prepare for Sunday’s final.
“Yaya has never before got his level for the national team,” said coach Herve Renard of his captain after their 3-1 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bata on Wednesday saw the Elephants to their third final in 10 years.
”But he has worked, he has scored and he has played with a lot of determination. To have players like him, Gervinho, Wilfried Bony in the team is to work with fantastic talent.
“The Ivorian side is one under reconstruction but these are the pillars,” added Renard.
The 31-year-old Toure has played at every Nations Cup since 2006, making his appearance at the finals in Equatorial Guinea a sixth. On top of that he has also participated at three successive World Cup finals.
But Sunday’s final against either Equatorial Guinea or Ghana presents his first chance at a winners medal with his national team, to add to Champions League success with Barcelona in 2009 -- when he was played at centre back -- and league winners medals in Greece, Spain and England.
He also scored the winner in the 2011 FA Cup final where Manchester City ended a 35-year wait for a trophy with a 1-0 win over Stoke City.
Toure’s record-breaking four successive African Footballer of the Year awards have all come on the back of his performances at club level but Renard hopes Ivory Coast will now reap a winning contribution from him too.
The testy Frenchman is the first coach to openly challenge Toure and the other ‘galacticos’ in the side.
A touchline tirade from the coach, occasionally directed at Toure when Renard feels he is not contributing, is something new for a player who, with many others in past Ivorian sides, had an untouchable aura.
The coach has taken him off in several matches after taking over last August in another departure from the norm.
But being treated like all others seems to resonate with Toure, who could finally produce the kind of contribution his country have been craving.
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly