Feghouli among notable Africa Cup absentees

Midfielders Sofiane Feghouli of Algeria, Hakim Ziyech of Morocco and striker Basem Morsy of Egypt are among notable absentees from the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations squads.  All failed to find favour as coaches put the final touches to squads for the tournament, which starts on January 14 with a match between hosts Gabon and debutants Guinea-Bissau. Medial outlets report on the 16 contenders as the Ivory Coast prepare to defend a title they won in Equatorial Guinea two years ago by edging Ghana in a penalty shootout.

The host nation were first to name a final, 23-man squad, which will be captained by reigning African Footballer of the Year and prolific Borussia Dortmund scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Burkina Faso
Veteran midfielder Charles Kabore skippers a country that has called up the Traore brothers — older Alain plays in Turkey and fellow midfielder Bertrand in the Netherlands for former European champions Ajax Amsterdam.

Liverpool defender Joel Matip is among six players in the 35-man provisional squad who want to skip the Cup of Nations and concentrate on their club careers. Another inclusion, Maxime Poundje, hopes to represent his country of birth rather than the homeland of his parents.

Portugal-based striker Cicero Semedo will miss the tournament after undergoing surgery on a leg stress fracture. The 30-year-old scored the late goal that gave the minnows a crucial qualifying victory in Kenya.

Sofiane Feghouli of West Ham United was a shock omission from a final squad that includes fellow winger Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City, the favourite to be named 2016 African Footballer of the Year on Thursday in Abuja.

Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, West Ham midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate and Liverpool striker Sadio Mane form the ‘spine’ of a team seeking to bring the most prized African football trophy to Dakar for the first time.

Qatar-based midfielder Youssef Msakni staked a strong claim to be retained when coach Henryk Kasperczak names his final squad by scoring a hat-trick in a 3-3 warm-up draw against Catalonia in Spain.

Belgium-based Knowledge Musona and fellow attacker Khama Billiat, who plays for African champions Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa are among those carrying the hopes of a country seeking to reach the knockout stage for the first time.

Republic of Congo

Coach Florent Ibenge has suffered several blows with a knee injury ruling out Everon winger Yannick Bolasie and local stars sidelined because the government has postponed the start of the new season, fearing political tensions could spill over into stadiums.

Ivory Coast
The defending champions have had mixed luck ahead of the title defence. An injury has sidelined veteran attacker Gervinho, but Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha opted for his country of birth after two friendly outings with England.

Midfielder Younes Belhanda from French league leaders Nice may make it to Gabon after being ruled out of consideration several weeks ago due to a broken toe. A surprise exclusion from the 26-man preliminary squad was Ajax Amsterdam midfielder Hakim Ziyech.

Clubless former African Footballer of the Year Emmanuel Adebayor will captain a team he has often shunned in the past due to disputes with coaches and officials. Another Togolese without a club is goalkeeper Kossi Agassa.

Striker Basem Morsy, whose goals helped Zamalek reach the 2016 CAF Champions League final, was a notable absentee from a preliminary squad that includes 43-year-old goalkeeper and captain Essam El Hadary.

Juventus midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah has reportedly asked under-pressure Ghana coach Avram Grant to leave him out of the Gabon-bound squad so that he can fully recover from a serious knee injury.

Spain-born Middlesbrough winger Adama Traore has turned down a chance to play for the country of his parents. Brothers Sambou and Moustapha Yatabare have been picked, as has Bakary Sako despite playing only 87 minutes for Crystal Palace this season.

Goalkeeper Denis Onyango, one of three finalists for the 2016 Africa-based Footballer of the Year award at a ceremony in Abuja Thursday, is the star of a squad that includes Ugandans playing in Iceland, the United States, Lebanon and Vietnam.