(Reuters) - The Ivory Coast have persuaded two French junior internationals to switch allegiance and play for them, strengthening their squad for the resumption of World Cup qualifiers later in the year, the country’s football federation has said.
The Olympique Lyonnais striker Maxwel Cornet, 20, and Udinese midfielder Seko Fofana, 21, join former England international Wilfried Zaha as players who have been recruited by the Ivorian federation in recent months. Cornet is Ivorian born while Fofana, who had a loan spell at Fulham, was born in Paris but his parents hail from the Ivory Coast.
Both played for France at four age group levels up to under-19 but under FIFA regulations can change their allegiance as they are dual nationals and have not played a senior competitive international for the team.
New Ivory Coast coach Marc Wilmots met with both Cornet and Fofana this week and the duo are likely to feature in his first squad in June when the team play the Netherlands in a friendly and then open their qualifying campaign for the 2019 African Nations Cup with a home match against Guinea.
In August, they resume their World Cup qualifying campaign away in Gabon. The Ivory Coast head Group C with four points from their first two matches.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town, editing by Sudipto Ganguly