The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) begins Saturday, January 13 with some top talent from across Premier League strutting their stuff in the Ivory Coast.
Here’s a look at just some of the star names who are going for glory with their national sides…
Mohamed Salah – Egypt
Liverpool’s Mo Salah put in a masterful performance in his final club game before departing for the warmer climes of the Ivory Coast, the hosts of the 2024 African Cup of Nations. The Reds’ Egyptian King scored one and assisted one in the 4-2 dismissal of Newcastle United on Monday last and set up a hatful of chances for Darwin Nunez before he was hauled off.
Salah’s Egypt are currently ranked as sixth favourite with Paddy Power to win the competition and will be up against Ghana, Cape Verde and Mozambique in Group B. A place in the Last 16 looks to be on the cards but they aren’t likely to progress much further.
Manchester City and Arsenal fans will be hoping they go all the way as it’ll keep Salah out of a few extra Liverpool league games if that’s the case. City have zero representatives at the competition, while Arsenal’s out-of-favour Mohamed Elneny will also be featuring for Egypt.
Mohammed Kudus – Ghana
West Ham’s Mohammed Kudus has been a revelation in David Moyes’ side who now find themselves sixth in the Premier League table. The former Ajax man has scored six and assisted one and loves to have a pop, averaging 1.3 shots per game.
He’s become a lynchpin in the Hammers’ midfield, averaging a pass competition rate of over 83%. Ghana’s chances aren’t great thought, they’re ninth favourites in the betting, but they should progress out of Group B along with Egypt.
Kudus will have two other Premier League players helping him out, Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew and Bournemouth’s Antoine Semenyo as well as Leicester man Daniel Amartey.
Yves Bissouma – Mali
Tottenham’s Yves Bissouma’s engine-like qualities have made him a fan favourite since his transfer from Brighton in the summer of 2022. With a pass competition rate of over 91%, it’s easy to see why. He’s not afraid to get stuck in too, he’s picked up five yellow cards and two reds this season already and averages 1.2 shots per game.
For Mali however, they’re currently 10th favourite and find themselves in a tough group, going up against Tunisia, South Africa and Namibia. Spurs fans will expect him back for their home clash against Brentford on January 31st.
Boubacar Traore of Wolves is also in the Mali squd.
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Nicolas Jackson – Senegal
Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson hasn’t exactly set the world alight with his club form, although admittedly there aren’t many in the ranks this season who have. The former Villarreal man has seven goals in 19 Premier League appearances and a league cup goal as well. He’s only played six times for the senior team, however, and is yet to score.
Senegal are favourites going into the AFCON and will face Cameroon, Guinea and Gambia in Group C.
They are stacked with talent. Former Liverpool forward Sadio Mane captains the side and he’ll be joined by five other Premier League players: Fulham’s Fode Ballo-Toure, Nottingham Forest’s Moussa Niakhate and Chekihou Kouyate, Everton’s Idrissa Gueye and Tottenham’s Pape Matar Sarr.
Brighton’s Abdallah Sima, who is on-loan at Rangers for the season, also makes the squad.
Andre Onana – Cameroon
On a recent Monday Night Football, Gary Neville was asked to review his pre-season picks. He’d had Manchester United’s Andre Onana as ‘one to watch’ and he said that he’s still one to watch. While he doesn’t exactly look settled yet, the stats say that the Red Devils would be in a worse position without him.
He’s tied with Liverpool’s Alisson for keeping the most clean sheets so far (six) and has made the fifth-highest number of saves, although that probably says more about their leaky defence. The way Erik ten Hag wants United to play means he wants the ball at Onana’s feet and with a pass competition rate of just 74% that’s where he needs to improve.
Cameroon are in the same group as Senegal and are fifth favourites to land the trophy. They’re expected to also make the last 16, meaning he could be back in action for the Red Devils’ trip to Wolves on February 1st.
Sofyan Amrabat & Nayef Aguerd – Morocco
Morocco are third favourites at the time of writing and have a pretty easy group, going up against DR Congo, Zambia and Tanzania in Group F. Sofyan Amrabat was instrumental in their journey to the 2022 World Cup semi-finals where they crashed out at the hands of France after heroic performances against Belgium, Spain and Portugal.
He’s not looked his best since his arrival at Old Trafford but, let’s be honest, the whole team is a mess, blowing hot and cold all campaign but there’s no doubting his abilities.
West Ham’s Nayef Aguerd has become a mainstay in David Moyes’ defence, a clever passer of the ball with a completion rate of 80% and he’s only been booked once this season. Most neutrals will be hoping for Morocco to go one match better than their last major tournament outing.
The host nation are worth keeping an eye on too, but long gone are the days of Didier Drogba, the Toure brothers and Salomon Kalou. That said, you can never rule out a host nation – with the exception of when Poland and Ukraine hosted the Euros that is.
Ivory Coast have called up four Premier League players in Nottingham Forest’s Serge Aurier, Willy Boly and Ibrahim Sangare while Brighton’s Simon Adingra received a call-up, he’s currently fighting a hamstring injury to be ready for their opening against Sierra Leone on January 6th.
They will face Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau in Group A.
All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
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