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AFCON & Asian Cup: Which Championship, League One and League Two players will be absent in January?

Twenty-six players from Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two clubs have been called up for their countries' AFCON and Asian Cup squads; AFCON takes place in the Ivory Coast from January 13 to February 11; Asian Cup takes place in Qatar from January 12 to February 10

January is set to be a busy month in the international calendar.

The Africa Cup of Nations starts on Saturday January 13 when hosts Ivory Coast take on Guinea-Bissau in Abidjan, while the Asian Cup starts on Friday January 12 as reigning champions Qatar face Lebanon in Lusail.

In February 2022, Sadio Mane put an early penalty miss behind him to score the winning spot-kick as Senegal won AFCON for the first time following a 4-2 penalty shootout victory in Yaounde.

The same month, Qatar won their first Asian Cup after a 3-1 win over Japan in Abu Dhabi.

With just days until the start of both tournaments, we take a look at the players from the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two who will be representing their countries on the world stage.


For the Africa Cup of Nations, 17 players from 14 clubs are confirmed to have been selected to represent 11 countries.

Stoke's Junior Tchamadeu - a summer signing from Colchester - made his Cameroon debut in the 3-0 win over Mauritius on November 17 and played just under an hour of the 1-1 draw with Libya four days later. He has played nine times for the Potters so far and started the last three Sky Bet Championship matches under Steven Schumacher.

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Image: Cameroon's Junior Tchamadeu

Ben Elliott spent 12 years at Chelsea's academy before joining Reading in August and the midfielder has played 25 times in all competitions for the Royals. He made his international debut for Cameroon when he came on for Brentford's Bryan Mbeumo against Mexico in June and has made three more brief appearances since.

Having moved to the UK aged four in 2002, Grady Diangana was eligible to play for England before switching his allegiance to the country of his birth - DR Congo - earlier this year. The West Brom winger, 25, was handed his debut by head coach Sebastien Desabre against New Zealand in October and earned his second cap in the 1-0 defeat to Sudan on November 19.

Image: DR Congo's Grady Diangana

Watford's Edo Kayembe was named in DR Congo's squad, but a calf injury has since forced him to withdraw from the squad.

West Brom's Semi Ajayi has become one of the first names on the Nigeria teamsheet under Jose Peseiro. After playing 90 minutes in the draws with Lesotho and Zimbabwe in November, the 30-year-old has now earned 28 caps since his debut against the Seychelles in September 2019. He has started nine times for the Baggies in 2023/24.

Joe Aribo, 27, has also earned 28 caps since he made his senior debut against Ukraine in September 2019. The Southampton forward played in three of Nigeria's four matches at AFCON 2021 and played the entirety of the aforementioned 1-1 draw with Zimbabwe.

Leicester's Wilfred Ndidi has been forced to withdraw from the Super Eagles' squad due to injury, while domestic and international team-mate Kelechi Iheanacho is still working to be fit for the tournament, having played just 27 minutes in the last month.

Image: Zambia's Patson Daka

Zambia striker Patson Daka comes into the tournament with plenty of momentum, having really stepped up to the plate for Leicester in December with four goals and two assists in six games. In addition, he has scored nine goals in his last seven appearances for his country.

Carlos Mendes Gomes was born in Senegal and moved to Spain as a child, before turning professional with Morecambe in 2018. The Bolton man was called up to the Guinea-Bissau squad for the first time in November and made his debut in the 1-0 win over Djibouti on November 20. The 25-year-old is yet to start a league game this term.

Derby right-back Ryan Nyambe came to England from Namibia aged 10 in 2008 and made his debut for his home country against Morocco at AFCON 2019. He has since gone on to collect 13 caps for the Brave Warriors.

Namibia's Ryan Nyambe
Image: Namibia's Ryan Nyambe

Elsewhere, Middlesbrough goalkeeper Seny Dieng has been called up by Senegal, having been part of the squad that triumphed in the previous tournament in 2022. His last cap came in the 1-1 draw with Benin in June and he has not played for Boro since December 16, with Tom Glover deputising in his absence.

Hull's Adama Traore is preparing for his third AFCON with Mali, while team-mate Jean-Michael Seri is set for his fourth with Ivory Coast.

Left-sided Huddersfield B Team player Charles Ondo made his debut for Equatorial Guinea in September and will be part of Los Elefantes' squad as they bid to reach the quarter-finals for the fourth time.

Gambia have now made their final squad public, with Stockport's Ibou Touray, Wrexham's Jacob Mendy and Cardiff's Ebou Adams included.

Asian Cup

For the Asian Cup, 10 players from seven clubs have been named across five international squads.

More than half of the representatives come from Australia.

Cameron Burgess has been at the heart of the Ipswich defence as they stormed their way into Championship promotion contention, but they will have to make do without him as he links up with Graham Arnold's squad. The Scottish-born 28-year-old made his debut against Mexico in September.

Cameron Burgess played against England in October
Image: Cameron Burgess played against England in October

Leicester defender Harry Souttar played in the Socceroos' three 2022 World Cup games and against Argentina in the last-16 and will welcome the chance to play, if it is presented to him, having played just 98 minutes for the Foxes this term.

Middlesbrough pair Riley McGree and Sam Silvera are the other second tier players who have been called up. Like Souttar, McGree played in all four games at the last World Cup, while Silvera has earned two caps to date.

Bolton's Gethin Jones played for Wales U21s up until 2016, but is eligible to play for Australia, given he was born in Perth. His inclusion in the squad marks the first time he has been called up at senior level.

Portsmouth's Kusini Yengi made his senior international debut in a 7-0 win over Bangladesh in November is also included. In December, he said it was "unfortunate that it falls mid-season".

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Portsmouth’s Kusini Yengi discusses making his debut for the Socceroos in November and his Asian Cup dilemma

Meanwhile, AFC Wimbledon will be one of the teams hardest hit by the tournament, given two of their most influential attacking players will be absent for at least three weeks. Omar Bugiel is part of the Lebanon squad, while Ali Al-Hamadi has linked up with Iraq.

In an interview with Sky Sports in 2022, Bugiel said he "would never have believed I'd get a call for the national team", while playing for Worthing in non-league.

Al-Hamadi - who has scored 26 goals in 47 games since joining the Dons in January - spoke to Sky Sports in December and explained what being called up meant to him.

"The country has been through a lot of tough times, so football has always been people's escape from that world and, for a lot of people, the national team is their only sense of hope," he said.

"You definitely do feel that pressure when you go away and though it's a nice pressure, it's also one that carries a lot of weight and you want to be able to live up to it."

Huddersfield will be without Yuta Nakayama after he was called up by Japan. The 26-year-old will have the chance to play in his first major tournament since the 2019 Copa America, having missed the 2022 World Cup due to an Achilles injury.

Elkan Baggott - who played four times for Ipswich in the Carabao Cup earlier this season - has been named in the Indonesia squad. The centre-back has already earned 19 caps since his debut in November 2021.

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