Yaya debuted for the Ivory Coast in 2004 and became captain a decade later, following the retirement of Dider Drogba.
Yaya made his debut for Ivory Coast in 2004 and represented The Elephants in all three of the nation’s maiden World Cup group games in 2006, achieving international attention and acclaim. The team’s inclusion in the tournament was historically significant as success on the field of play brought about peace talks in the midst of a civil war taking place back home.
At the 2010 World Cup Yaya scored against North Korea to help Ivory Coast secure only their second ever victory on the global stage. In 2014 Yaya was made captain of the national team ahead of the World Cup in Brazil. That same year he went on to win his 100th cap for the country.
In 2015 Yaya captained The Elephants to African Nations glory – a trophy that had eluded his country for 23 years – helping them to victory by penalty shoot-out.
September 2016 saw Yaya release an official statement announcing his retirement from international football.
Yaya has been crowned African Footballer of the Year a record four times, an honour held jointly with Samuel Eto’o, and all the more remarkable considering that the award has historically tended to be bestowed upon strikers. He has also won the BBC African Player of the Year award twice, decided by public vote. He has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or five times.
Yaya made his Ivory Coast debut aged 20 in a 4-2 friendly win against Guinea in Aix-les-Bains, France, on 28 April 2004.
His competitive debut soon followed in a 2-1 win away in Alexandaria, Egypt in a World Cup qualifier in June.
The Elephants finished runners-up in the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), with Yaya scoring an important winner in a 2-1 group-stage win over Libya in January, before suffering a 4-2 loss on penalties to hosts Egypt in the final on 10 February.
That year also saw The Elephants reach their first ever World Cup, and Yaya appeared in all three matches in Germany, including their first ever World Cup match win, a 3-2 victory over Serbia and Montenegro.
Yaya made the Confederation of African Football (CAF) team of the tournament at the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations and was an ever-present for them during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, scoring the first goal in a 3-0 triumph over North Korea.
The Elephants were eventually edged out at the group stage, despite impressively securing a goalless draw with European giants Portugal.
Yaya was again in the CAF Team of the Tournament and was an AFCON runner-up in 2012, after Ivory Coast lost 8-7 on penalties to Zambia in Libreville.
In the 2013 AFCON Yaya impressed once again, scoring in both The Elephants’ first two matches – the opening goal in a 2-1 win over Togo and netted to seal a 3-0 victory over Tunisia.
A third World Cup appearance ensued for Yaya in Brazil in 2014, this time as captain after the retirement of veteran striker Didier Drogba. He began with a man of the match performance in a 2-1 win over Japan in June.
Yaya reached his 100th cap on 19 November 2014, helping Ivory Coast secure AFCON qualification through a 0-0 draw with Cameroon in Abidjan.
In 2015 Yaya led The Elephants to their first Africa Cup of Nations win since 1992, coming during his sixth personal appearance at the tournament.
Yaya opened the scoring in a 3-1 semi-final win against the Democratic Republic of Congo, helping the Ivory Coast reach a third AFCON final in nine years.
Only four days later Yaya captained as The Elephants defeated Ghana on penalties at Estadio de Bata in Equatorial Guinea, with the midfielder’s form rewarded by making the CAF Team of the Tournament for a third time in his career.
Yaya retired from international football on September 20th, 2016, before announcing he was available for national team selection again on 26th December 2017.