The 32nd edition of The Africa Cup of Nations kicked off on Friday, 21 June 2019 with an exciting opener between host Egypt and The Warriors of Zimbabwe. This is the biggest Africa Cup of Nations ever featuring 24 national teams as against the 16 teams, with three sides making their debut at an Africa Cup of Nations tournament: Mauritania, Burundi and Madagascar.
All will have their eyes set on the best footballers from all over Africa including star players like Champions League winners Mohamed Salah (Egypt) and Sadio Mane (Senegal), Medhi Benatia (Morocco), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal) and Thomas Partey (Ghana). But are there others that could make a name for themselves in the next 29 days?
Here are seven players you should watch out for during the Africa Cup of Nations.
24-year-old Nicolas Pepe is an Ivorian winger who plays his club football with Ligue 1 side Lille where he had an impressive last season scoring 23 goals in 41 appearances with only Kylian Mbappe scoring more in the league. He was voted as Lille’s Player of the Season after he helped guide the French side to second in the table while securing Champions League football for them next season.
Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal have all been linked with the £70million-rated winger who will likely cause several problems for opponents when using his speed down the right-hand side.
Ismaila Sarr, just like Pepe had an impressive season in Ligue 1 last season. The 21-year-old managed to reach double figures for both goals and assists for Rennes, scoring 13 times in all competitions.
Arsenal, Newcastle and Watford are all keeping tabs on the winger and the Senegal international will be sure to catch the attention of plenty more clubs with a series of good performances in Egypt.
Samuel Chukwueze is another youngstar to keep an eye on. Having only being called up to Villarreal’s senior side in November, he has done exceptionally well in such a short space of time.
The 20-year-old, whose gameplay is likened to that of Arjen Robben with his desire to cut inside from out wide with his left foot, scored 10 goals in 47 appearances last season, which also included Villarreal’s first against Barcelona in the thrilling 4-4 draw
While he is still developing and is a bit raw, the Super Eagles have a real talent on their hands.
Mahmoud Hassan Trezeguet
While not to be confused with the great French striker, Trezeguet poses a real threat on the opposite flank to Salah for Egypt.
The 24-year-old currently plays for Turkish side Kasimpasa and scored a respectable nine goals in 34 league appearances last season.
He has started his AFCON 2019 campaign on a good note with the goal which broke the deadlock against Zimbabwe in the opening game of the tournament.
The 25-year-old has built up a reputation for being a hard worker in the midfield while his performances for Club Brugge have attracted interest from Newcastle, Watford and Premier League returnees Aston Villa.
More impressively in the Champions League, Nakamba helped contain the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Atletico Madrid as the Belgian side kept three clean sheets while conceding just four goals in five games.
Let’s hope he stays true to his moniker over the next month.
If you tuned in to watch the Champions League last season, then you surely will have heard of Hakim Ziyech.
The 26-year-old was phenomenal in a young and brilliant Ajax side that almost reached the final.
Ziyech scored in both legs to help knock Real Madrid out of the competition while he was crucial to Ajax winning the domestic double.
The Morocco international has been linked with moves to Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham but a good showing at the Africa Cup of Nations will surely see his price-tag skyrocket.
Playing under Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira, Youcef Atal has enjoyed a superb season at Nice.
The 23-year-old chipped in with six goals from the right-back position which has caught the attention of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico, Inter Milan and Spurs are all monitoring his progress and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he got a big-money move this summer.