VETERAN striker Didier Drogba was again left out of the Ivory Coast squad when coach Sabri Lamouchi unveiled his 26 players for next month's World Cup qualifiers against Gambia and Tanzania's Taifa Stars.
The 35-year-old Drogba led his country at the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa this year but the team exited at the quarter-finals stage.As a result, the former Chelsea star was axed from the squad for March's World Cup qualifier against Gambia. Despite Drogba's 96 caps and 60 international goals, Lamouchi has resisted the urge to recall the Galatasaray veteran. Manchester City's Kolo Toure was also overlooked.
Romaric N'Dri Koffi, who plays for Real Zaragoza in Spain, and Jean-Jacques Gosso, of Turkish side Mersin Idman Yurdu, were recalled.
There are two new names in the squad -- defender Serge Aurier of Toulouse and striker Mathis Bolly from Germany's Fortuna Duesseldorf. Ivory Coast will face Gambia away on June 8 and Taifa Stars eight days later at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
Meanwhile, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has picked South African and Kenyan officials to officiate at the upcoming 2014 World Cup qualifier between Morocco and Tanzania in Marrakech on June 8.
South African match officials Daniel Bennett and Zakhele Siwela have been appointed to take charge of the match. The pair are assisted by the Kenyan linesman Marwa Range.
The match is key for both countries in qualifying Group C, where the Ivory Coast are the favourites and the leaders at the halfway point. They lead the Group C by one point from Taifa Stars, who are on six points.
A classy, purposeful and clinical performance from Taifa Stars saw the Tanzanian outfit register one of their most illustrious victories in the history of World Cup qualifiers after thrashing favourites Morocco 3-1 in their first leg match at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam
TP Mazembe dup of Mbwana Samata and Thomas Ulimwengu combined to great effect as Kim Poulsen's team put in scintillating second half performance to stun the Atlas Lions of Morocco in an exciting Group C match.
In another development, the qualifying for the 2015 African Cup of Nations will take place over only three months next year, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has announced.
It means 144 fixtures, involving a total of 48 teams in 12 groups of four, will have to be squeezed in between September and November.The schedule has been designed to fit in with world governing body FIFA's international match calendar.
There are no dates in 2014 before the World Cup finals take place in Brazil.It is the first time that qualifying has had to be arranged around the World Cup since the Nations Cup was switched from even to odd years.
And with difficult transport links between some African nations, the tight fixture schedule could cause some problems -- particularly on routes between the east and west of the continent.
A weekend match will be followed by a midweek game in three periods set aside by FIFA, with clubs obligated to release their players for international duty for the duration.
The dates are September 1-9, October 6-14 and November 10-18.At the end of the group phase, the winners of each group and the best three runners up will advance to the final phase of qualification for the tournament, which will be hosted by Morocco from January 17 to February 7, 2015.
CAF also announced that the Nations Cup qualification preliminary round, featuring up to 12 of the lowest ranked African sides in a two-legged play-offs, will take place in July and August.