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African champions Cote d’Ivoire unleash new blood for World Cup qualifiers

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Cote d’Ivoire coach Emerse Faé has overhauled his squad for next month’s crucial 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Gabon and Kenya, handing call-ups to five new faces including a trio of players from Ligue 1.

The Elephants, who top Group F alongside Gabon on six points, host the Panthers in Korhogo on 7 June before an away trip to Nairobi to take on the Harambee Stars four days later.

With qualification for the finals in the USA, Canada and Mexico well-poised, Faé has taken the opportunity to inject fresh blood into his ranks following the side’s TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations triumph in February.

Nice striker Evann Guessand, Le Havre left-back Christopher Operi and Lorient frontman Mohamed Bamba have all earned their first senior call-ups as part of Faé’s revamp.

Guessand and Bamba both featured for France at youth level, while Bamba’s former Elephants Under-23 teammate Mohamed Diomande of Rangers is another new addition after opting to represent Cote d’Ivoire over Ghana.

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Middlesbrough striker Emmanuel Latte Lath completes the influx of new faces as Faé looks to build for the future while keeping one eye on this year’s qualifiers.

While the quintet of uncapped players grabbed the headlines, there were also recalls for the likes of Rennes midfielder Guela Doue, who scored a crucial goal against Uruguay in March.

However, several big names from February’s  AFCON triumph have missed out, including captain Serge Aurier and fellow defender Eric Bailly due to a lack of game time at club level.

They are joined by Ibrahim Sangare, Karim Konate, Christian Kouame and Jean Krasso in being omitted, while there is no place in the 26-man squad for Wilfried Zaha despite Faé holding talks with the Galatasaray winger about a potential return.

Star names such as Franck Kessie, Sebastien Haller, Evan N’Dicka, Seko Fofana and Yahi Fofana have all been retained as the spine of Faé’s squad for the crucial double-header.

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The Elephants currently top Group F but know maximum points against Gabon and Kenya could prove crucial in their bid to secure one of the section’s prized spots in North America in two years’ time.

Full squad


Goalkeepers : Yahia Fofana (Angers), Badra Ali (Sekhukhune), Mohamed Koné (Dunkirk)

Defenders : Willy Boly (Nottingham), Christopher Operi (Havre), Ousmane Diomande (Sporting), Odilon Kossounou (Leverkusen), Evan Ndicka (Roma), Ghislain Konan (Al-Fayha), Guela Doue (Rennes), Wilfried Singo (Monaco ), Emmanuel Agbadou (Reims)

Midfielders : Mohamed Diomande (Rangers), Franck Kessie (Al-Ahli), Jean Michael Seri (Hull), Seko Fofana (Al Ettifaq), Lazare Amani (Union SG), Habib Traore (Napoli)

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Forwards : Mohamed Bamba (Lorient), Sebastien Haller (Dortmund), Evan Guessand (Nice), Oumar Diakite (Reims), Jeremie Boga (Nice), Nicolas Pepe (Trabzonspor), Simon Adingra (Brighton), Emmanuel Latte Lath (Middlesbrough)

-CAF

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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BREAKING! Finidi George formally resigns

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Nigeria Super Eagles’ coach, Finidi George has resigned from his post as Super Eagles’ coach, two days after the Nigeria Football Federation announced it was going to employ a foreign technical adviser.

A source close to Finidi told Sports Village Square that Finidi sent his resignation letter to Ibrahim Gusau “3o minutes ago.”

 Finidi was said to be livid that the NFF leadership met with the sports minister two days ago, but failed to mention that players reported late to the camp and that they didi nothing to mobilise Nigerians in Cote d’Ivoire to come out to support the Super Eagles in last Monday’s match with Benin Republic.

“He complained that the NFF heaped all the blames on him”, said the source.

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  Calls to NFF officials to verify the information were not answered.  

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World Cup

UPDATE: NFF may spare Finidi George

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Under fire Super Eagles’ coach, Finidi George may excape sack afterall. A source close to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) told Sports Village Square that Finidi may not be sacked.

 He would however work under the foreign technical adviser that the football governing body is planning to hire in the next few weeks.

  The source who was privy to the Wednesday’s ‘hybrid mode’ meeting of the NFF informed that Finidi George will be designated as ‘Chief Coach’ while the expatriate will be the technical adviser.

It is however unclear how the NFF will foot the wage bill of the technical adviser, who may also come with his personal crew as Finidi George  also already have his own foreign assistants.

There is also no word on the loud absence of Daniel Amokachi who was designated as Finidi George’s assistant, but failed to show up at the Super Eagles’ camp leading to the ill-fated World Cup match day 3 and 4 encounters with South Africa and Benin Republic.  

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Mali sack head coach Eric Chelle

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Africa Cup of Nations - Round of 16 - Mali v Burkina Faso - Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium, Korhogo, Ivory Coast - January 30, 2024 Mali coach Eric Chelle REUTERS/Luc Gnago/File Photo

Mali have fired head coach Eric Chelle, the West African nation’s soccer federation said on Thursday.

In a statement, reported on national television, it gave no reason for the decision but the sacking comes days after Mali were held to a goalless draw by 10-man Madagascar in a Group I World Cup qualifier in Johannesburg.

“The executive committee of the Malian Football Federation, meeting in extraordinary session today unanimously decided, with the agreement of the supervisory authority, to end the collaboration between the coach of the National Team Senior, Mr. Eric Sekou Chelle and the federation,” the statement said.

Chelle, 46, born in the Ivory Coach to a French father and a Malian mother, was brought up in France. He played at club level mostly in France and for Mali at the international level where he made five appearances between 2004 and 2006.

He was appointed as Mali’s head coach in May 2022 and led the team to the quarter-finals of the 2023 African Cup of Nations held in Ivory Coast earlier this year.

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Before managing Mali, Chelle’s previous coaching experience was at Martigues and Boulogne in the French lower divisions.

-Reuters

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