Crack striker Didier Drogba could return to action for Côte d'Ivoire on Wednesday when they play Guinea near Paris in a friendly international.
A knee injury forced the dreadlocked Chelsea star to miss an Ivorian tour of Japan last May and four 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™/African Nations Cup qualifiers the following month.
Drogba, who had knee surgery last year, was included in a 23-strong squad for the fixture at Chantilly and fit-again Barcelona 'enforcer' Yaya Toure is another Elephants star to be recalled by Vahid Halilhodzic. The Serbian coach sprung a surprise by selecting Spain-based Felix Djah, who won the last of three caps seven years ago, and Aruna Dindane, Arouna Kone and Bakary Kone are also back in the squad.
Côte d'Ivoire have fond memories of Guinea, having crushed them 5-0 in a 2008 CAF African Nations Cup quarter-final in Ghana last February with Drogba triggering a late four-goal blitz. The scars left by that record-equalling Nations Cup loss may have played a role in the sudden decision of first-choice Guinea goalkeeper Kemoko Camara to quit the international scene.
Veteran Camara, released by Scottish club Dundee United in mid-year, has been replaced by Youssouf Toure from local club Fello Stars, with France-based Naby Yattara his rival for a starting line-up place. Teenage midfielder Mamadi Keita, who awaits his debut for Hamburg in the Bundesliga, has been named in a squad led by inspirational playmaker Pascal Feindouno.
The match in Chantilly is one of 10 friendlies involving African national teams as they prepare for the resumption of FIFA World Cup qualifiers next month.
Stoke City midfielder Salif Diao, who helped giantkillers Senegal reach the last eight at Korea/Japan 2002, is back in favour after a four-year absence for a tough assignment in Tripoli against Libya. Coach Lamine Ndiaye gives a first call-up to Belgium-based Mbaye Leye but another striker, Mamadou Niang from French side Marseille, remains unavailable after opting out of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in June.
New coaches spring surprises
New Morocco coach Roger Lemerre has included Germany-born Mohamed Amsif, a 19-year-old goalkeeper without any experience at senior club level, in a squad to meet resurgent Benin in Rabat. Amsif recently signed professional terms with Schalke in his homeland, and a second footballer born outside Morocco to be included is French defender Adil Rami.
Another coach taking charge for the first time is Portuguese Humberto Coelho, who has included veteran Birmingham City defender Radhi Jaidi in his Tunisia side for a fixture against fellow Germany 2006 qualifiers Angola in Monastir. Coelho, who succeeded Lemerre in charge of the Carthage Eagles, has recalled Mehdi Nafti of Birmingham and Francileudo dos Santos, Brazil-born star of Tunisia's 2004 Nations Cup-winning squad.
Egypt, winners of the last two editions of the biennial Nations Cup, have omitted midfielder Mohamed Barakat and striker Mohamed Zidan from the squad to confront Sudan in Omdurman. Coach Hassan Shehata has questioned the commitment of the duo, accusing them of feigning injury to avoid playing for the Pharaohs, who defeated Cameroon 1-0 in Accra last February to lift the African title a record sixth time.
Striker Lomana Tresor LuaLua has recovered from an appendix operation and could start for the Democratic Republic of Congo against Togo in Dreux, one of three French match venues.
Ghana play for the first time under Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac when they face Tanzania in Arusha. Rajevac has received the approval of veteran midfielder Stephen Appiah amid concern over a lack of African experience.
"Serbia is a similar terrain to Africa, so the unwarranted criticism can only succeed in breaking our spirit and killing the vision of building a formidable team," cautioned Appiah in a radio interview.
Algeria face United Arab Emirates in the northern French town of Le Touquet, Bahrain host Burkina Faso in Manama and Swaziland meet Mozambique in Lobamba in other fixtures.