Drogba returns for Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN - Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba is set to make his return to international football next week for the first time since the World Cup but his Chelsea team-mate Michael Essien is continuing his hiatus.

Drogba was named on Friday by the Ivorian Football Federation for their friendly against Mali in Valence, France on Tuesday which could be his first appearance for his country since the 3-0 World Cup win over North Korea in June.

Drogba, with 43 goals in 71 appearances, had asked to be excused from the Ivorians' first two Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers but is now back in a 22-man squad named by coach Francis Zahoui.

Essien last year said he was standing down from international football "for the foreseeable future" to focus on his club career and is again not available for Ghana, who play a friendly against Togo in Antwerp, Belgium on Tuesday.

Essien, who missed the World Cup in South Africa, has suffered two serious injuries while on international duty.