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Drogba, Eto'o notable for their absence as Group D opens

Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto'o will be missing when Group D starts at the African Cup of Nations

Drogba, Eto'o notable for their absence as Group D opens

MALABO, Equatorial Guinea (AP) -- Premier League strikers and tournament stalwarts Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o will be notable for their absence when the final group at the African Cup of Nations kicks off on Tuesday.

First up at the Malabo Stadium is Guinea against the Ivory Coast, sans Drogba. The second Group D match will pit Mali against Cameroon, which is playing without Eto'o.

Chelsea's Drogba and Eto'o, who plays for Everton, are missing from the continental tournament for the first time in a decade, but both Ivory Coast and Cameroon remain among the favorites both to advance from the group and for the tournament overall.

Eto'o is a two-time African Cup champion, while Drogba has twice lost in the final.

Taking over as the leader of Ivory Coast this time is Yaya Toure, who just matched Eto'o by winning a fourth African player of the year award.

The last time Ivory Coast was in the final, in 2012, the team lost to Zambia. The coach of Zambia at that time, Herve Renard, is now in charge of the Ivorians.

"Before I retire I really want to win something with my country," Toure said recently. "I hope that Herve Renard will take us as far as possible."

Toure hasn't taken part in a full practice with the national team since arriving in Equatorial Guinea. But it's unclear if he is injured or just resting after playing for Manchester City during the congested holiday period.

Ivory Coast's other important players will be veterans Kolo Toure, Gervinho and Salomon Kalou, but it may be Wilfried Bony who is most likely to lead the way if the team gets on a winning run.

For Cameroon, the key to success may come from one of the players who replaced Eto'o up front. FC Porto striker Vincent Aboubakar is tall and quick, and has the natural qualities that make him very difficult for defenders to stop.

Mali would also be considered one of the favorites for the title if not drawn in such a tough group.

The Malians lost in the semifinals at the last two African Cups, and veteran midfielder Seydou Keita will be the one looking to inspire the rest of the team to get back there again this time.

Updated : 2021-09-25 09:20 GMT+08:00