Ten players to look out for at AFCON 2023

The Africa Cup of Nations scheduled in January will witness the spectacle of superstars based in Africa and beyond. The competition is set to start on the 13th, and concludes on 11 February. Such an enormous competition would mean crucial stars and key players will miss games in the middle of the season across Europe.

Here are 10 notable stars who are going to be missed by their football clubs during the upcoming AFCON.

Ibrahim Sangaré

Côte d’Ivoire has boasted some of the best African talents over the years. The same can be said with the current crop of footballers representing the nation in a few weeks. Ibrahim Sangaré will be one man the Ivory Coast will be hoping to rely on in the upcoming tournament.

The midfielder has been an integral part of the Nottingham Forrest squad battling relegation this season having made 11 appearances for them. In that time, he has maintained a respectable pass accuracy of 80.7%, while his defensive actions have been nothing short of impressive. So far this season, Sangaré has made 32 tackles along with 20 blocks, signifying his worth to the side and to his nation.

Serge Aurier

Sangaré will be joined by his Forrest compatriot, Serge Aurier, as they head to the AFCON. While boasting the likes of Traorè, Amad Diallo, and countless others to represent the Ivory Coast, two stars will be sorely missed back at their football clubs. The quality he brings along him could prove pivotal as Côte d’Ivoire hopes to bring the trophy back with them.

The veteran has made 12 appearances so far this season with two assists. Although his defensive contributions do not match Sangaré’s, Aurier makes up for it with a respectable 1.62 shot-creating actions per 90.

André Onana

The five-time AFCON champion Cameroon enters the competition having last won it almost seven years ago. Although history’s influence in the competition is marginal, they may be able to call upon their past wins to make this their sixth AFCON. To aid their challenge for the sixth title, André Onana will surely be one of the most pivotal members of the Cameroon Squad.

The Manchester United keeper has had a turbulent season so far, with 20 appearances and just six clean sheets to his name. Although he has maintained a high save percentage at 73.7%, the keeper has had his abilities questioned quite aggressively as of late. The national team will hope to see his best at AFCON, shrugging aside all doubt that has been laid on him so far.

Bryan Mbuemo

The French-born Cameroon international has seen his stock rise ever since Brentford was promoted to the Premier League. The electric winger has been one of the key cogs in a middling Brentford side that can seldom pull off upsets against the biggest of teams.

Having made 15 appearances so far this season, the winger has already contributed seven goals and three assists in Brentford’s battle to stave the threat of relegation. Alongside his 10-goal contribution, the respectable 2.66 shots per 90 proves his worth to the Brentford attack and maybe signals the time to test himself at a higher level. And should he manage to have an amazing AFCON, there will be little reluctance from top sides to bring him in to aid their own attacking needs.

André-Frank Zambo Anguissa

The midfielder is one of the most crucial players in the Napoli squad after bouncing around the continent. His work ethic and defensive tenacity were never respected highly enough until his move to Napoli which has since seen him skyrocket in importance. Zambo Anguissa has played 17 matches so far this season, with an exceptional pass accuracy of 88.3% to his name.

Zambo Anguissa has topped up his passing stats with an electrifying 3.14 shot-creating actions per 90, while also being an integral contributor to the midfield’s defensive efforts with 28 tackles and 20 interceptions to his name this season. Cameroon will be relying on him to unlock and disrupt opposition midfield in the upcoming tournament.

Serhou Guirassy

The small nation of Guinea heads into the AFCON hoping to pull off an upset. Serhou Guirassy will be the man leading them as they head into the upcoming tournament. The Stuttgart forward has been crucial to his club and could prove to be pivotal to his nation’s AFCON ambitions alongside Naby Keita.

The striker has scored 17 so far in the Bundesliga in just 14 appearances. The forward has racked up 3.84 shots per 90 this season, and if the first half of the season is to be believed as a measuring stick, he does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

Dango Ouattara

The Nation of Burkina Faso will hope to rely on Dango Ouattara who has made a splash since his move to the south coast of England. Burkina Faso has entered the AFCON for the fourth time in their history in 2024. In each of their previous campaigns, they have not managed to finish higher than eighth. Although their improving trend suggests they could very well break into the top eight barrier.

Having made 12 appearances so far for Bournemouth, he is making a case to be in the thoughts of the manager. But the numbers have not been promising enough for the young forward. Both the national team and Ouattara will hope he finds his shooting boots soon enough to turn the tide in all echelons of the remaining season.

Chancel Mbemba

The two-time AFCON winners head into the season after a brief absence from the competition. Having missed out on qualification back in 2021, they are yet to make a return to the top four since 2015. Chancel Mbemba can be the cog that helps them back into the semifinal stage in AFCON 2023.

The veteran defender has been a rock for Marseille in France. Mbemba boasts an impressive pass accuracy of 87.8% to his name so far this season. Although his defensive numbers are not incredible, with just 32 tackles and interceptions in 16 appearances so far. The tackle success rate suggests he comes out on top more often than not, with a 71% tackle success rate so far.

Achraf Hakimi

Morocco heads into the tournament with something to prove. After reaching the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup back in 2022, they have attracted eyes and fans along with the belief of delivering a trophy to the nation of Morrocco. Achraf Hakimi will be the man to turn to for inspiration when his team needs him the most. The PSG defender has proven his quality and ability time and time again and will have yet another opportunity to prove it.

Hakimi has made 14 appearances so far and contributed to three goals and four assists as a defender which is mighty impressive. Alongside boasting an impressive pass accuracy rate of 87.5%, the defender is also putting up 3.84 shot-creating actions per 90. His offensive prowess has put his defensive numbers in the shadows, with just 18 tackles and 10 interceptions so far this season.

Mohammed Salah

The Egyptian forward is known to be one of the best attackers in the world right now. Having led Liverpool to the pinnacle of European and English football, he has cemented his name as one of the greats in Liverpool’s history. But his national heroics do not pale in comparison with 55 goals in 95 appearances for the national team.

The forward has been amazing this season, having played 20 times so far. In those 20 appearances, he has contributed to 14 goals and eight assists, taking just over three shots per 90. While he may not be much of a passer, the 4.55 shot-creating actions signify his importance to Liverpool’s attack and what he could offer to Egypt in AFCON.

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