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AFCON 2023: Players to Watch

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With the host country, Ivory Coast, scheduled to play Guinea-Bissau in the opening Group A match of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, all eyes will be on the tournament. With Egypt keen to exact revenge for their 2022 final setback, Senegal enters as the bookies’ favourite to retain their title. Here are our top 10 AFCON players you can’t miss.

Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

‘The Egyptian King,’ Mohamed Salah, hopes to further his remarkable career by winning the AFCON championship. The 31-year-old Liverpool player has scored 27 goals in as many games this season for Jurgen Klopp’s team, demonstrating his peak form. Egypt is primarily dependent on Salah, and they should be serious contenders if he can carry over his club brilliance to the international arena.

Ousmane Diomande (Ivory Coast)

Top European teams like Liverpool and Chelsea are interested in Sporting CP’s 20-year-old centre-back Ousmane Diomande. He’s a highly sought-after talent due to his strong defensive and offensive skills. The Ivory Coast may benefit greatly from Diomande’s contribution, since he provides attacking plays and defensive stability.

Sadio Mane (Senegal)

Salah’s old teammate Sadio Mane encountered difficulties after joining Bayern Munich in 2022. Mane’s need for atonement has been heightened by his quick exit from Germany and his injury-related absence from the World Cup. Mane has found his form again at Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League, where he has eight goals and four assists. Senegal is hoping that Mane’s comeback will help them keep their AFCON championship.

Serhou Guirassy (Guinea)

Even though Harry Kane makes most of the headlines in the Bundesliga, Serhou Guirassy’s outstanding time at Stuttgart has not gone unnoticed. Guirassy has drawn the attention of Premier League heavyweights like Manchester United and Newcastle with 17 goals in 14 appearances. Guinea has a difficult group to overcome, but Guirassy’s skill could help them make tournament history.

Mohammed Kudus (Ghana)

Mohammed Kudus, a Ghanaian, has been essential to West Ham’s Premier League triumph. Kudus and Jarrod Bowen’s connection has improved West Ham’s attacking capabilities, earning manager David Moyes’ praise for being “exceptional”. Ghana hopes to go far in the AFCON with Kudus helping their front line.

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Yankuba Minteh (Gambia)

Feyenoord’s Yankuba Minteh, who is currently on loan from Newcastle, has scored seven goals in 17 Eredivisie games. The 19-year-old is a headache for defences because of his direct approach and reckless playing style. Gambia is optimistic that Minteh’s abilities would be evident in the group stages despite a difficult trip to the competition.

Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)

Now playing for Al-Ahli in the Saudi Pro League, Riyad Mahrez, a Premier League champion with Manchester City, is employed. With seven assists and eight goals thus far, the 32-year-old is off to a great start. Mahrez hopes to build on his previous achievements as the captain of Algeria and the winner of the 2019 AFCON.

Karim Konate (Ivory Coast)

Karim Konate, 19, is another example of how Red Bull Salzburg has cultivated talent. Konate has a flair for scoring goals and blazing speed. He is tied for the most goals scored in the Austrian Bundesliga. Konate offers the Ivory Coast an important X-factor, even though he isn’t usually a starter.

 

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Pape Matar Sarr (Senegal)

Pape Matar Sarr has become more prominent as Tottenham has rallied under Ange Postecoglou. Senegal’s 21-year-old midfielder is a formidable contender because of his box-to-box approach, defensive ability, and technical sophistication. Tottenham may have found a midfield gem in Sarr, based on his performance in the competition.

Victor Osimhen (Nigeria)

Victor Osimhen—the 2023 African Player of the Year—was instrumental in Napoli’s Serie A victory. The almost £100 million striker, 25, is still lethal in front of goal. Leading Nigeria’s front line, Osimhen hopes to increase his trophy haul at the AFCON.

With these ten players leading the way, the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations promises to be an exciting show. Fans will surely witness moments of brilliance, drama, and the joy of the beautiful game as these football legends perform to build the tournament’s story as nations compete for continental supremacy. From January 13–February 11, 2024, Côte d’Ivoire will host the 2023 AFCON, which will have 24 teams total—four teams in each group.

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