The 36-year-old striker, who recently returned to English Premier League side Chelsea on a one-year deal, believed he should step aside to allow the next generation of Ivorians to take over and fill his sizeable shoes. "It's a good time. A good time to stop, to give way to young players and begin to build a new team for the next few years,” he said.
“It's a difficult decision because I know what I'm still able to do, but at the moment when you feel they don't trust you like before, I think it's a wise decision. I'm there, available for the country, but not for playing any more. If Hervé Renard calls me, I'll explain to him, and I'm quite sure he will understand. But at some point, you have to say stop".
His final appearance for the West African nation was a heart-breaking one, as a last-gasp penalty saw Greece in Fortaleza deny the Africans their first ever spot in the Round of 16. However, Drogba enjoyed some historic and truly memorable moments while representing his country, and FIFA.com looks back at five of them.
8 October 2005 – History made and a war ended
This October Saturday in Omdurman, Sudan brought a pair of hugely significant moments for the country of Côte d'Ivoire. Not only did the 3-1 victory over the hosts seal passage to their first ever FIFA World Cup™, but it also saw Drogba make huge strides towards ending a civil war back home. After Pierre Webo's hat-trick during the 3-2 defeat to Cameroon in Abidjan had left qualification out of Côte d'Ivoire's hands, a late Egyptian equaliser left the Indomitable Lions just two points ahead before kick-off. A second-half brace from Aruna Dindane sealed victory and a trip to Germany 2006 for Drogba and Co., and amid the joy of the dressing room the Chelsea man dropped to his knees, TV microphone in hand, and pleaded for peace in Côte d'Ivoire. "It was just something I did instinctively," he explained two years later. "All the players hated what was happening to our country and reaching the World Cup was the perfect emotional wave on which to ride."
Having only made the CAF Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals once since Les Elephants lifted the continental title 14 years earlier, and having been totally absent from the competition in 2004, the men in Orange had failed to dethrone the likes of neighbours Cameroon and Nigeria at the top of the West African hierarchy. So, led by Drogba, 2006 proved almost the perfect tournament for those loyal to Côte d'Ivoire. Almost. An epic penalty shoot-out with Cameroon in the quarter-final, where their powerful striker scored their first and last penalties in a 12-11 win – which long-time rival Samuel Eto'o could not replicate, booked a final-four match with Nigeria. Drogba was again the hero, scoring just after half-time to eliminate the Super Eagles and put the soon-to-be-called 'Golden Generation' within touching distance of greatness. However, that is where the happy memories end, with another shoot-out seeing hosts Egypt win the first of their three successive titles.
10 June 2006 - Côte d'Ivoire take their bow
After making it to their first World Cup finals, Henri Michel's side were handed a tough draw, grouped with heavyweights Argentina and the Netherlands, as well as Serbia and Montenegro. It was in front of almost 50,000 fans in Hamburg that the African nation got their first taste of action, but against the South Americans – who went out to hosts Germany in the quarter-finals on penalties – it was always set to be a tough debut. Two goals down at half-time, it was not the opening they had maybe dreamed of, but with eight minutes to go Drogba made his mark at least. Firing in after a cut-back from Bakari Kone to make it 2-1 with the first of his two goals at the World Cup, scoring the second four years later against Brazil.
1 March 2007 – Crowned as Africa's No1
While on the field, Drogba's career with his country was often defined by nearly moments – with two AFCON runners-up medals and that late heartbreak in Brazil against Greece – but his contribution to the team was well recognised. Having come so close three years running beforehand, finishing behind Eto'o on each occasion, Drogba finally stood top of the continental tree for individual talent as he was named the CAF Afrcian Footballer of the Year in 2006. It was one of two titles he would claim, with the next in 2009, and only he and his Cameroonian rival have appeared in the top three eight times.
14 June 2014 – One last World Cup triumph
There had been doubts over whether Drogba would receive a swansong in Brazil 2014, and though he made the cut for Sabri Lamouchi's squad after continuing to impress with Galatasaray, the captain began the first game on the bench – much to his frustration. However, while trailing 1-0 to Japan, and arriving with half an hour to go, his mere presence was what turned the game as midnight neared in Recife. Within minutes of his arrival, with a stretched Blue Samurai backline trying to cope with the imposing frontman, Wilfried Bony and Gervinho executed a quick-fire turnaround to earn themselves a 2-1 win, with Drogba key to the victory.