London, (Pal Telegraph) – Didier Drogba made a successful return to international football on Tuesday as the Ivory Coast beat Mali 1-0 in a friendly in France.
The striker, who took a break after last year’s World Cup finals, lined up for the first time under the charge of Sven Goran Eriksson’s successor as coach, Francois Zahoui.
The Chelsea player, who was his country’s captain in South Africa, did not get on the scoresheet but helped his team take the lead as early as the third minute through midfielder Didier Ya Konan.
Drogba was involved in the build-up as he chested down a long pass and threaded the ball into the box to Gervinho, whose low cross was met powerfully by Ya Konan.
Mali should have equalized, but Mamadou Samassa had a penalty saved.
It was Zahoui’s second victory since taking over in August, following the 1-0 win over Italy in London and November’s 3-1 defeat away to Poland.
Africa’s top-ranked team Ghana beat Togo 4-1 in Belgium to give new coach Goran Stevanovic a winning start to his reign ahead of next month’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The World Cup quarterfinalists took the lead in the 10th minute through striker Dominic Adiyiah, but Komlan Amewou equalized three minutes after halftime.
Substitute Jonathan Mensah restored Ghana’s lead after an hour, then Togo defender Serge Akpakpo conceded an own-goal on 69, and Adiyiah set up replacement fullback Samuel Inkoom for the fourth goal with nine minutes to play.
Meanwhile, hosts Sudan became the first country to reach the quarterfinals of the 2011 African Nations Championship on Tuesday following a 1-0 win over Uganda.
A ninth-minute goal from midfielder Mudhather al-Tayeb was enough to eliminate Uganda and give Sudan a second successive Group A win, having also beaten Gabon by the same score with the winner from the same player.
Gabon can still go through to the last eight after snatching a 2-2 draw with Algeria despite playing more than half the match with 10 men following defender Ebanega Ekwa’s second booking.
El Arbi Hillel Soudani had put Algeria 2-1 ahead with his second goal in the final minute of regulation time, but Bembangoye Jean’s last-gasp leveler stopped the Desert Foxes from advancing.
Sweden will meet Ukraine in Wednesday’s final of the four-nation friendly international tournament in Cyprus.
The Swedes beat the hosts 2-0 on Tuesday with first-half goals from winger Tobias Hysen and striker Marcus Berg.
Ukraine progressed after beating Romania 4-2 in a penalty shootout when the match ended at 2-2.
Ukraine took a 2-0 lead through Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Artem Milevskiy gave the Ukraine a 2-0 lead, but midfielder Dan Alexa equalized with two goals in 10 minutes before halftime.
The Republic of Ireland beat Wales 3-0 in Dublin in the opening match of the inaugural Nations Cup event.
Second-half goals from Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson, Fulham winger Damien Duff and substitute Keith Fahey meant a losing start for new Wales coach Gary Speed.
Scotland and Northern Ireland will meet in the second game on Wednesday — which will be a busy program of friendlies featuring a repeat of the 1998 World Cup final between France and Brazil, plus Argentina-Portugal and Germany-Italy.