The Africa Cup of Nations kicked off on Friday, 21 June, when hosts Egypt defeated Zimbabwe with a goal to nil.
It’s the first time the tournament has been held in European football’s summer break. The competition was supposed to be held in Cameroon but in January it was changed to Egypt because of security concerns.
Here are the top players to watch out for at this summer’s must watch tournament.
Sadio Mane – Senegal
Fellow Liverpool star Sadio Mane has arguably been just as important as Salah in the season just gone.
The Senegal international scored 26 times in 50 games, and picked up the Premier League’s top scorer award – the golden boot – in the process.
For his country, Mane is the main man. He has scored 16 times. Senegal has never won the Africa Cup of Nations but arrives at the tournament as Africa’s number one team according to FIFA rankings.
If everything goes as expected, he will meet Salah in a hotly contested semi-final between Egypt and Senegal.
Mohamed Salah – Egypt
Liverpool’s main man, Mohamed Salah, scored 27 goals last season as his team triumphed in the Champions League.
The goal scoring machine is also his country’s go-to man in the big moments. In just 63 appearances, he’s scored 39 times.
Egypt will be looking for revenge at this summer’s tournament after missing out against Cameroon in the final of the 2017 African Cup of Nations.
Salah was named in the team of the tournament after getting two assists and scoring twice.
André Onana – Cameroon
Onana was another one of Ajax’s breakout stars this season after they reached the semi-finals of the Champions League.
The goalkeeper, who was spotted playing in the Samuel Eto’o academy in Cameroon, has been a key player for the Dutch champions since making his debut as a 20 year old in 2016.
In May, Onana spoke out about being a black goalkeeper, saying they had to work harder than their white teammates because of misconceptions about them making more mistakes.
He was voted as the best keeper in Africa last year and he will be hoping he can take that form into the competition with Cameroon.
Wilfried Zaha – Ivory Coast
With a reported price tag of over £70 million, Crystal Palace’s Zaha is seen as one of the best players outside the Premier League’s top six teams.
He will be key for Ivory Coast if they have any chance of doing well in the tournament. They crashed out at the group stage in 2017.
Zaha is an unusual case because he has played for two international teams. Even though he was born in the Ivory Coast, he played twice for England in friendly matches.
Hakim Ziyech – Morocco
It hass been a memorable season for Ajax’s breakout star.
He announced himself on the world scene by scoring a goal in each leg of Ajax’s memorable win against Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League last season as the Dutch champions made it all the way to the semi-finals.
However, football fans will tell you they have known about Ziyech for years.
In three seasons for Ajax, he’s scored 40 times from the right of midfield. For his country, Ziyech is even more prolific, scoring 14 times in 25 appearances.
Nicolas Pépé – Ivory Coast
You may not have heard about Pépé yet but there is a good chance you soon will.
The Lille winger has been linked with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool. It comes after a season where he scored 22 times for the French league’s surprise package.
Only French superstar Kylian Mbappe scored more than Pépé as Lille finished second.
He has been on great form for the Ivory Coast as well, scoring four times in his last appearances.
Kalidou Koulibaly – Senegal
Manchester United have been linked with a club record bid for Napoli’s centre half Koulibaly.
If they want to sign the colossus defender they will have to fork out over £100 million for his services.
Since joining Napoli in 2014, Koulibaly has established himself as one of the best defenders in the world.
And, he’s just been awarded the Serie A Best Defender award. It’s because of Koulibaly’s presence that Senegal are being tipped as favourites in the competition.
Author: Sports Reporter