BAMAKO (Reuters) - Bakary Sako was included in Mali’s 23-man squad for the African Nations Cup finals on Thursday after appearing in his first club match for a month when he came on as a substitute for Crystal Palace this week.
Sako’s availability for the tournament in Gabon was in doubt as he struggled with injury, completing just over 100 minutes of game time for his club in league and cup matches this season.
But the winger came on early in the second half of the 2-1 home defeat by Swansea City in the Premier League on Tuesday and did enough to convince Mali coach Alain Giresse to take him to the tournament.
Mali, who have been preparing in Morocco, open their tournament programme against Egypt in Port Gentil on Jan.17. They also meet Ghana and Uganda in Group D.
Goalkeepers: Soumaila Diakite, Djigui Diarra (both Stade Malien), Oumar Sissoko (Orleans)
Defenders: Ousmane Coulibaly (Panathinaikos), Salif Coulibaly (TP Mazembe Englebert), Mohamed Oumar Konate (Renaissance Berkane), Youssouf Kone (Lille), Mahamadou Ndiaye, Charles Traore (both Troyes), Hamari Traore (Stade Reims), Molla Wague (Udinese),
Midfielders: Yves Bissouma (Lille), Lassana Coulibaly (Bastia), Mamoutou Ndiaye (Antwerp), Samba Sow (Kayserispor), Yacouba Sylla (Montpellier), Adama Traore (Monaco), Sambou Yatabare (Werder Bremen)
Forwards: Kalifa Coulibaly (Ghent), Moussa Doumbia (Rostov), Moussa Marega (Vitoria Guimaraes), Bakary Sako (Crystal Palace), Moustapha Yatabare (Kardemir Karabukspor).
Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Keith Weir