The continent’s biggest party, the African Cup of Nations, is underway in South Africa. After a beautiful opening ceremony, the hosts played to a goalless draw against an inspired Cape Verde team and what was expected to be a goal harvest between Angola and Morocco ended another disappointing 0-0.
But the best is yet to come. With Ghana, Zambia, Mali, DR Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Algeria yet to play, there is no reason to think that this is going to be a dull tournament. I’ve compiled a list of the players that are almost sure to spring life into the tournament.
5. Tresor Mputu
This TP Mazembe striker burst into the continental scene by leading his club to win the CAF Champions League back to back in 2009 and 2010. He also led DR Congo to victory in the CHAN in 2009, beating Ghana 2-0 in the final of the tournament. Although he has lost some of his shine after serving a 12-month ban, the striker is still DR Congo’s best hope.
4. Asamoah Gyan
Asamoah Gyan has been Ghana’s top striker since 2006. Known as much for his sharp goal-scoring as for his heart-wrenching penalty misses, Gyan is a hero and a villain rolled in one. He currently plays for Al Ain in the UAE Pro-League. In the absence of defender, John Mensah, Gyan leads the Black Stars as captain. His performance in the team’s warm-up games is an indication that he may be back to his best form. If the Black Stars are to have any chance of winning the tournament, their captain has to play as well as they know he can.
3. Christopher Katongo
The champions, Zambia, are under pressure to prove that their victory last year was not a fluke. The Chipolopolo, as they are nicknamed, have suffered a string of losses in warm-up games but nobody is fooled by that. Their charismatic skipper, Christopher Katongo, won the BBC African Footballer of the year and he is expected to be in top form this year. The striker for Chinese Super League club, Henan Construction FC, has to bring back the boots he used in the last AFCON to secure the cup once more for Zambia.
2. Didier Drogba
Few will disagree that his best days are behind him, but this UEFA Champions League winner is still motivated to have an AFCON gold medal in his collection. The Ivorian striker, who now plies his trade for Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League has been the Elephants top man since 2006. After losing the chance to clinch the trophy through a penalty shoot-out in 2006 and 2012, Didier Drogba is sure to bring his best in what may be his final AFCON.
1. Victor Moses
The Chelsea left-winger is a welcome inclusion to a Nigerian team seeking to regain their position as one of the continent’s giants. The 22-year old played for the junior teams of England but turned down their request to play for the senior side in order to play for Nigeria. This would be his first AFCON tournament and if he can contain the pressure, he’s sure to be a delight to watch.
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