Johannesburg - Midfielders
Sofiane Feghouli of Algeria and Hakim Ziyech of Morocco and striker
Basem Morsy of Egypt will be notable absentees from the 2017 Africa Cup
of Nations in Gabon this month.
They all failed to find favour as national coaches put the final
touches to plans for the tournament, which kicks off on January 14 with a
Group A fixture between Gabon and debutants Guinea-Bissau in
AFP Sport reports on the 16 contenders as the Ivory Coast prepare to
defend a title they won in Equatorial Guinea two years ago by edging
Ghana in a penalty shootout after a goalless final.
The host nation were first to name a final, 23-man squad, which will
be captained by reigning African Footballer of the Year and prolific
Borussia Dortmund scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Veteran midfielder Charles Kabore skippers a country that has called
up the Traore brothers -- older Alain plays in Turkey and fellow
midfielder Bertrand in the Netherlands for former European champions
Liverpool defender Joel Matip is among six players in the 35-man
provisional squad who want to skip the Cup of Nations and concentrate on
their club careers. Another inclusion, France-born Maxime Poundje,
hopes to represent his country of birth rather than the homeland of his
Portugal-based striker Cicero Semedo will miss the tournament after
undergoing surgery on a leg stress fracture. The 30-year-old scored the
goal that gave the minnows a crucial qualifying victory in Kenya.
Sofiane Feghouli of West Ham was a shock omission from a final squad
that includes fellow winger Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City, the
favourite to be named 2016 African Footballer of the Year Thursday in
Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, West Ham midfielder Cheikhou
Kouyate and Liverpool striker Sadio Mane form the 'spine' of a team
seeking to bring the most prized African football trophy to Dakar for
the first time.
Qatar-based midfielder Youssef Msakni staked a strong claim to be
retained when coach Henryk Kasperczak names his final squad by scoring a
hat-trick in a 3-3 warm-up draw against Catalonia in Spain.
Belgium-based Knowledge Musona and fellow attacker Khama Billiat, who
plays for African champions Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa are among
those carrying the hopes of a country aiming to reach the knockout
stage for the first time.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Coach Florent Ibenge has suffered blows with Bournemouth striker
Benik Afobe putting club before country, a knee injury ruling out Everton
winger Yannick Bolasie, and local stars idle because the government has
postponed the start of the new season, fearing political tensions could
spill into stadiums.
The defending champions have had mixed luck ahead of the title
defence. An injury has sidelined veteran attacker Gervinho, but Crystal
Palace winger Wilfried Zaha opted for his country of birth after two
friendly outings with England.
Midfielder Younes Belhanda from French league leaders Nice has
conceded defeat in his bid to recover from a broken toe in time for the
tournament after flying to the team camp in the United Arab Emirates for
a second opinion. A surprise exclusion was Ajax Amsterdam midfielder
Clubless former African Footballer of the Year Emmanuel Adebayor will
captain a team he has often shunned in the past due to disputes with
coaches and officials.
Striker Basem Morsy, whose goals helped Zamalek reach the 2016 CAF
Champions League final, was a notable absentee from a preliminary squad
that includes 43-year-old goalkeeper and captain Essam El Hadary.
Ghana coach Avram Grant has omitted Kwadwo Asamoah after the
experienced Juventus midfielder asked to be left out so he can fully
recover from a serious knee injury.
Spain-born Middlesbrough winger Adama Traore has turned down a chance
to play for the country of his parents. Brothers Sambou and Moustapha
Yatabare have been picked, as has Bakary Sako despite playing only 87
minutes for Crystal Palace this season.
Goalkeeper Denis Onyango, one of three finalists for the 2016
Africa-based Footballer of the Year award at a ceremony in Abuja
Thursday, is the star of a squad that includes Ugandans playing in
Iceland, the United States, Lebanon and Vietnam.