Ivory Coast have included Didier Drogba and Kolo and Yaya Touré in their final squad for the African Cup of Nations, while their title rivals Ghana were last night waiting on the fitness of star striker Asamoah Gyan before revealing their line-up.
The Ivory Coast coach, François Zahoui, named his 23-man selection in the United Arab Emirates, where the Ivorians are in camp, to meet last night's deadline set by the Confederation of African Football. Also included were Arsenal forward Gervinho, midfielders Cheick Tioté of Newcastle and Hannover's Didier Ya Konan and Drogba's Chelsea team-mate Salomon Kalou.
Goalkeeper Kone Ibrahim of French club Boulogne and the Russia-based midfielder Marco Ne were the two players from Ivory Coast's initial training squad that travelled to the UAE who didn't make the cut.
As Africa's top-ranked team, Ivory Coast are the favourites to claim their first continental title in 20 years. The Elephants are in Group B with Angola, Burkina Faso and Sudan at the tournament co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Ghana were sweating on the fitness of key striker Gyan before naming their finals squad late last night. The 26-year-old forward has a hamstring injury, which threatens his participation in the tournament this month.
A decision on the possibility of a full recovery, by the time Ghana play their first match on 24 January, must have been made by midnight last night, the deadline for the submission of squads to the Confederation of African Football's headquarters in Cairo.
"Asamoah will only be taken to the competition if he recovers in time," the Ghana Football Association president, Kwesi Nyantakyi, told the Ghana News Agency earlier yesterday.
The former Sunderland striker, now on loan in the United Arab Emirates, has been working with a Serbian medical team put together by coach Goran Stevanovic since arriving at Ghana's pre-tournament training camp in Rustenburg, South Africa, earlier this week.
"I'm really important to the team and I will do anything possible to get fit for the Nations Cup," Gyan told the Ghana Football Association website last week.
Ghana have high hopes of winning the title after finishing runners-up at the 2010 tournament and reaching the World Cup quarter-finals 18 months ago. They play in Group D with Botswana, Guinea and Mali.
Defender Herve Zengue was left out of Burkina Faso's final squad hours after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in favour of the Cameroon-born player's eligibility to play for his adopted country. Sport's highest court said on Tuesday that Burkina Faso could play in the African Cup and dismissed an appeal by qualifying rivals Namibia over Zengue's eligibility.
However, Portuguese coach Paulo Duarte left Zengue and the Ivory Coast-born defender Stéphane Agbre off his final list. Burkina Faso are likely to pin much of their hopes on midfielders Alain Traoré of Auxerre and Jonathan Pitroipa of Rennes.
Duarte also included Traoré's brother, Chelsea's 16-year-old prodigy Bertrand, who is yet to play a senior club match. A member of the London club's academy since mid-2010, midfielder Traoré won a first cap for Burkina Faso in a friendly in September. If he features in his country's opening game of the Nations Cup against Angola in Malabo on 22 January he will become the third-youngest player ever at the finals.
The record was set at the 2000 finals by Ghana's Shiva Star Nzigou, who was 16 years, two months and 30 days old when he took to the field against South Africa in Kumasi, Ghana, and he even managed to score that day.
The former Internazionale striker Mohamed Kallon was 15 when he first played in the qualifiers and aged 16 years, three months and nine days when he came on as a substitute in Sierra Leone's first game at the 1996 finals in South Africa.
Coach Duarte added the Malta-based full-back Saidou Mady Panandetiguiri and striker Prejuce Nakoulma of the Polish club Gornik Zabrze to the squad at the last moment after injuries.
Like Ghana, Tunisia were also waiting until just before the deadline to submit their squad because of injuries to Issam Jemaa and Mejdi Traoui.
Auxerre striker Jemaa returned to light training on Tuesday in Dubai, where Tunisia are based this week, but Traoui is still sidelined, officials said. Tunisia are in Group C with one of the co-hosts Gabon, Morocco and Niger.Reuse content