April 22, 2024
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The Africa Cup of Nations, like every major tournament, has relied on the continents biggest names in the sport, to reach global audiences.

This years tournament in Côte d’Ivoire will be no different. Even without stars like Victor Boniface, AFCON 2023 will still line up some of the best players in world football.

Reigning Serie A Player of The Year and CAF Player of the Year 2023, Victor Osimhen, 2021 AFCON winner and former Liverpool and Bayern Munchen striker Sadio Mane are among a constellation of stars set to shine between 13 January – 11 February.

Here are ten of the best to watch in Ivory Coast.

Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco, 24)

Azzedine Ounahi was one of the breakout stars from the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He established himself as Morocco’s creative force through the middle.

The Olympique Marseille ace has since established himself as a key cog in Djamel Belmadi’s Atlas Lions team.

Ounahi’s inventiveness, presence of mind, and intensity have made him a key asset for both club and country.

Mohammed Kudus (Ghana, 23)

Kudus

Electric. Exciting. Breathtaking. That is Mohammed Kudus.

He makes the impossible not only possible, but easy to do.

Even without having pre-season training with West Ham United, the twenty-three year-old has set England’s Premier League alight with his explosive speed, skill and goalscoring prowess. Mohammed Kudus has also already won seven man of the match awards and has scored ten goals in all competitions in half a season for the East London outfit.

It goes without saying that if the Black Stars are to win the elusive fifth AFCON title, Kudus will be central to that.

Sehrou Guirassy (Guinea, 27)

Giurassy has emerged from obscurity to become of the most wanted finishers in world football this season.

Giurassy scored a modest eleven goals in last season’s German Bundesliga, but has caught the world’s attention with a dozen more this season.

Guirassy is undoubtedly the striker who was missing from the Syli de Guinée’s puzzle to excel in the AFCON finals.

Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon, 31)

Vincent Aboubakar etched his name in gold when he scored the winning goal as Cameroun beat Egypt in 2017 to win their fifth title.

Aboubakar has since increased his AFCON tally to nine goals in four tournaments. He is just two goals away from becoming the fifth highest scorer in the history of the competition.

The Besiktas striker has scored 40 goals in 100 appearances for the Indomitable Lions.

Mohamed Salah (Egypt, 31)

There are only three competitions Mohammed Salah is yet to win in his otherwise successful career. The FIFA World Cup. And the African Cup of Nations.

Salah guided Egypt through the qualifiers unscathed and looks set to explode in his fourth AFCON campaign.

Salah has won the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FA Cup, League Cup, and the FIFA Club World Cup. He is also Liverpool’s third all-time top scorer with 204 goals.

The Liverpool forward is desperate to add the AFCON to his collection of titles like many Egyptian greats before him.

Sébastien Haller (Côte d’Ivoire, 30)

After surviving testicular cancer last year, Sebastian Haller has gone on to assert himself as one of the continent’s most respected center forwards. In twenty-one appearances, the former West Ham and Ajax striker has scored a respectable eight goals for Ivory Coast.

Despite representing France at various youth levels, Haller’s dedication and personable nature has endeared him to Ivorian fans who will cheer him to success from January 13.

Mohamed Amoura (Algeria, 23)

While other illustrious elders in the Algerian squad (Mahrez, Feghouli, Slimani) need no introduction, Mohamed Amoura should be the big attraction of this TotalEnergies AFCON 2023 for the Fennecs. The midfielder has excelled for his Belgian club over the past two seasons and has the opportunity to lead his national team into a major competition.

Sadio Mané (Senegal, 31)

Mane

Having won the player of the tournament en route leading Senegal to their first title in Cameroun two years ago, Sadio Mane is without doubt the gold standard for this year.

Mane is well rested and is in prime shape after swapping Europe’s stressful, energy sapping terrain for Saudi Arabia’s more relaxed environment last summer.

Beyond his dribbling skills and match winning ability, Mane’s leadership and personality will serve Senegal well.

Victor Osimhen (Nigeria, 25)

After winning the Serie A Player of the Year 2023 and the CAF Player of the Year 2023, Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen has set his sights on winning the AFCON.

Despite struggling with injuries this season, the Napoli striker still managed to score double figure goals for club and country. At Napoli, he has scored eight goals in all competitions.

Osimhen will lead Nigeria’s search for their fourth AFCON title.

Peter Shalulile (Namibia, 30)

Peter Shalulile is at the prime of his career with South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns. Fresh from lifting the inaugural African Football League and currently a key member of the team’s chase for a second TotalEnergies CAF Champions League gold medal, Shalulile will be key for the Brave Warriors of Namibia in Cote d’Ivoire.

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