Didier Drogba has backed Benni McCarthy's chances of winning a South Africa recall ahead of next summer's World Cup finals.
The Blackburn striker has struggled to regain his Bafana Bafana place after being dropped for last summer's Confederations Cup after being injured only to play for Rovers soon after.
McCarthy last played for South Africa in a friendly against Ghana in 2008 although he could be given a fresh start following the sacking of Brazilian head coach Joel Santana.
The 31-year-old is also out-of-favour with Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce having made just one Premier League start this season and featuring twice off the bench.
Chelsea ace Drogba is a close friend of McCarthy and he insists the striker deserves to feature in next year's showpiece event because he is a good player.
"South Africa have to include their best players and Benny McCarthy is one of them," he told skysports.com.
"I have to defend my good friend. Not because he is my friend, but because he is a very good player. They need him."
Meanwhile, Drogba is backing Ivory Coast's credentials and insists they have matured after making their finals debut in Germany in 2006.
"African teams can do well in the World Cup," he continued.
"Ghana and Ivory Coast are very strong. Our 2006 experience will
"Teams need to worry about us. We're more mature now and we will go there with our confidence and qualities to fight for our nations and our continent."