ABIDJAN, Jan 5 (Reuters) - African footballer of the year Didier Drogba, who underwent knee surgery last month, has been named in the Ivory Coast's 23-man squad for the African Nations Cup finals in Ghana later this month.
Drogba returned to training at Chelsea this week and the Ivorian coach Uli Stielike has gambled on his being fit in time for the start of the tournament on Jan. 20.
Back-up goalkeeper Tiasse Kone of Africa Sports is the only uncapped player in the team while Marc Zoro of Benfica, who has not played a game this season, is surprisingly preferred to the Hamburg defender Guy Demel.
Fifteen members are retained from the squad that competed at the last Nations Cup finals in Egypt two years ago, where they finished runners-up.
The Elephants begin pre-tournament preparations on Monday with a training camp in Kuwait, which will include an international against the home side on Jan. 12.
The Ivory Coast open their Nations Cup campaign with a Group B clash against Nigeria in Sekondi on Jan. 21.
Goalkeepers: Boubacar Barry (Lokeren), Tiasse Kone (Africa Sports), Stephan Loboue (SpVgg Greuther Furth)
Defenders: Arthur Boka (VfB Stuttgart), Constant Djakpa (Pandurii Targu Jiu), Emmanuel Eboue (Arsenal), Steve Gohouri (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Abdoulaye Meite (Bolton Wanderers), Kolo Toure (Arsenal), Marc Zoro (Benfica)
Midfielders: Emerse Fae (Reading), Christian Koffi Ndri (Le Mans), Siaka Tiene (St Etienne), Gneri Yaya Toure (Barcelona), Didier Zokora (Tottenham Hotspur)
Forwards: Aruna Dindane (Racing Lens), Didier Drogba (Chelsea), Salomon Kalou (Chelsea), Abdelkader Keita (Olympique Lyon), Arouna Kone (Sevilla), Bakary Kone (Nice), Gervais Yao Kouassi (Le Mans), Boubacar Sanogo (Werder Bremen).