Crystal Palace forward Wilfred Zaha and Manchester United defender Eric Bailly have been included in the final Ivory Coast Squad for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
Zaha returns to head coach Patrice Beaumelle’s squad after missing the country’s last two rounds of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in November.
The 29-year-old’s exclusion from the team stirred an episode of drama after the coach Beaumelle said the former Manchester United player had indeed ‘asked not to come’ because he was reconsidering his future.
However, Zaha responded by denying his coach’s claims stating that he was not thinking about ‘reconsidering my international future’ insisting that playing for the country is an honour that he ‘cannot take for granted’.
Zaha then set the record straight by explaining that his absence was in fact due to a viral infection and that he had sought the coach’s permission to miss the games.
The forward, who was born in Ivory Coast’s capital Abidjan has scored five goals in 21 appearances for the Elephants, and has played at both the 2017 and 2019 AFCON where they reached the quarter-finals.
He will lead the country’s chare for a third African title following success in 1992 and most recently in 2015.
Max Alain Gradel and Serge Aurier who were part of the 2015 winning squad have been included on the squad as well.
The others players who were part of that team that return are Jean Daniel Akpa-Akpro, Wilfried Kanon and goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo who was second choice at that time.
Ajax star and UEFA Champions League leading top scorer Sebastien Haller has also been included in the final squad that also includes stars like Burnley’s Maxwell Cornet, Wolves’ Willy Boly, Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe and Fulham’s Jean Michael Seri.
Meanwhile, Manchester United teenager Amad Diallo did not make the cut together with experienced winger Gervinho Kouassi who is ruled out because of an injury.
ASEC Mimosas teenage forward Karim Konate has been chosen ahead of Diallo. he 17-year-old striker has netted 13 goals in 11 appearances in the Ivorian Ligue 1, CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup this season.
Cote d’Ivoire who are making their 24th appearance at the AFCON tournament will tackle Equatorial Guinea in their opening group stage game.
Beaumelle’s side play against West African neighbours Sierra Leone before facing defending champions Algeria in the last round of the group games.
Ivory Coast final squad:
Goalkeepers: Sylvain Gbohouo (Wolkite Ketema, Ethiopia), Badra Ali (JDR Stars, South Africa), Ira Tapé (FC San Pedro), Cissé Abdul Karim (ASEC Mimosas)
Defenders: Serge Aurier (Villareal, Spain), Éric Bailly (Manchester United, England), Willy Boly (Wolverhampton, England), Wilfried Kanon (Pyramids FC, Egypt), Odilon Kossonou (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany), Simon Deli (Adana Demirspor, Turkey); Ghislain Konan (Reims, France)
Midfielders: Habib Maiga (Metz, France), Serey Die (FC Sion, Switzerland), Ibrahim Sangaré (PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands), Jean Daniel Akpa Akpro (Lazio, Italy), Franck Kessie (AC Milan, Italy), Hamed Junior Traoré (Sassuolo, Italy), Jean Michael Seri (Fulham, England)
Forwards: Maxwell Cornet (Burnley, England), Max Gradel (Sivasspor, Turkey), Jérémie Boga (Sassuolo, Italy), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, England), Jean Évrard Kouassi (Trabzonspor, Turkey), Nicolas Pépé (Arsenal, England), Christian Kouame (Anderlecht, Belgium), Sebastien Haller (Ajax, Netherlands), Johan Boli (Al- Rayan, Qatar), Konaté Karim (ASEC Mimosas)