ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure were picked for Ivory Coast’s provisional World Cup squad of 28 players on Tuesday.
Drogba and Toure are expected to form the spine for Africa’s top-ranked team when it plays Japan, Colombia and Greece in Group C in Brazil.
Toure’s brother Kolo, a Liverpool defender, was also on the preliminary list released by coach Sabri Lamouchi, along with strikers Wilfried Bony of Swansea and Gervinho of Roma.
Emmanuel Eboue, the former Arsenal and now Galatasaray right back, was not picked and looks set to miss the World Cup.
Drogba, one of Africa’s best-ever strikers, is 36 and almost certainly heading to his last World Cup. Ivory Coast has its best chance of going far at the World Cup in Brazil after being drawn in a relatively manageable group.
“I never said it was an easy group ... but we have our chances,” Lamouchi said.
Lamouchi expressed fears Tuesday at his squad announcement over the fitness of midfielders Souleman Bamba and Mathis Bolly, and Everton striker Lacina Traore, but he picked all three in his preliminary squad. The group will be cut to 23 for the World Cup.
The coach also said Drogba’s recent lack of game time because of a knee problem was an issue.
“Not seeing Drogba on the field is also worrying.” Lamouchi said.
Yet the Ivorians still have a talented squad drawn mainly from the Turkish, French, German and English leagues and are expected to perform better than 2010, when they exited in the group stage after being drawn to face with Brazil and Portugal.
The squad will travel to the United States on May 24 for a training camp in Dallas ahead of World Cup warm-up games against Bosnia on May 30 and El Salvador on June 4. Ivory Coast opens its World Cup campaign against Japan in Recife on June 14.
Goalkeepers: Boubacar Barry (Lokeren), Sylvain Gbohouo (Sewe San Pedro), Sayouba Mande (Stabaek), Badra Ali Sangare (ASEC Mimosas)
Defenders: Serge Aurier (Toulouse), Benjamin Angoua (Valenciennes), Brice Dja Djedje (Marseille), Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro (Toulouse), Didier Zokora (Trabzonspor), Kolo Toure (Liverpool), Souleman Bamba (Trabzonspor), Arthur Boka (Stuttgart), Constant Djakpa (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ousmane Viera (Rizespor)
Midfielders: Cheik Tiote (Newcastle), Serey Die (FC Basel), Ismael Diomande (Saint-Etienne), Didier Ya Konan (Hannover), Yaya Toure (Manchester City), Max Gradel (Saint-Etienne), Mathis Bolly (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
Forwards: Didier Drogba (Galatasaray), Wilfried Bony (Swansea), Gervinho (Roma), Salomon Kalou (Lille), Lacina Traore (Everton), Giovanni Sio (FC Basel), Seydou Doumbia (CSKA Moscow)