JOHANNESBURG: Emmanuel Adebayor will play at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, Mahamadou Diarra will not, and a late-minute change left Brown Ideye thrilled and Nigeria teammate Raheem Lawal devastated.
It was all part of the drama as the 16 title challengers finalized 23-man squads Thursday ahead of the Jan. 19-Feb. 10 tournament in five South African cities.
Tottenham striker and Togo captain Adebayor said last year he would shun the competition, citing security concerns after being part of the squad attacked in Angola ahead of the 2010 finals.
A player and an official were killed by separitists seeking independence for the oil-rich Cabinda enclave and Adebayor escaped injury by cowering under a bus seat.
As Tottenham, the Togo president and national football officials became involved in the saga, Adebayor refused to reveal his plans, and his inclusion became official only when the 23-man squad was named by coach Didier Six.
Perennial underachievers Togo are in the Rustenburg-based ‘group of death’ with title favorites Ivory Coast and other former champions Algeria and Tunisia and are given little hope of survival.
Mali, third last year and considered likely quarter-finalists after being drawn with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Niger, suffered a late setback when Fulham midfielder Diarra pulled out injured.
A recurring knee injury failed to heal, meaning the veteran will miss a second consecutive Cup of Nations, although the blow was cushioned by the return of another experienced midfielder, Mohamed Lamine Sissoko.