Sunderland centre-back Lamine Kone has declared himself fit and available for selection ahead of the Ivory Coast’s second World Cup qualifier of the international break after missing the weekend’s fixture against Gabon.
Reports had suggested that the Black Cats defender had joined up with his international colleagues last week with his subsequent absence from Saturday’s three-goal victory hinting he had picked up an injury.
But reports now hint Kone didn’t hook up with the Ivorian training camp until Sunday and the 28-year-old has insisted he is ready to face Gabon in the second-part of the qualifying double-header tomorrow night.
Why the powerful defender was not part of Saturday’s squad remains unclear but certainly reports in England yesterday questioned whether he would be subsequently fit to play against Sheffield United this weekend.
But Kone has insisted there is no issue and that he is keen to regain his place in the heart of the Ivory Coast defence after missing the country’s last four international fixtures through injury:
I'm ready to play this game. If the coach allows me to play, I will be ready to fight against these Gabonese and get the three points. For Côte d'Ivoire, it will already be a good start for Russia.
The Ivory Coast are now odds-on to qualify for next year’s World Cup, leading their qualification group following two wins and a draw.
The news is a boost for Sunderland fans who had feared Kone may have picked up a knock to join teammate Aiden Mcgeady in looking doubtful for the Black Cats game with the Blades at the Stadium of Light this Saturday. The Republic of Ireland winger is due for a scan to determine the extent of his injury later today.
Kone has started the Championship season strongly and looks set to play a key part in the Black Cats campaign after a move away from the Stadium of Light failed to materialise before the transfer window closed last week.
The 6ft 1in defender has started each of Sunderland’s opening five fixtures and with Bournemouth centre back Marc Wilson joining the club on deadline day, Simon Grayson has options in his selection thoughts for the middle of defence.