The 2024 Africa Cup of Nations is scheduled to occur in Ivory Coast, running from January 13 to February 11.
The tournament will showcase renowned football figures, and AFP Sport has highlighted five notable players to watch out for:
Victor Osimhen (Nigeria)
The anticipation of Osimhen leading Nigeria in the AFCON is exciting for Super Eagles fans. Fresh from being named the African player of the year for 2023, following his impressive contributions to Napoli’s Serie A title, he embarks on the Ivory Coast journey.
Despite scoring 26 goals last season, his current campaign saw eight goals. Yet, armed with a new contract, he aims to compensate for lost opportunities at the upcoming Cup of Nations.
Osimhen, sidelined in the 2019 tournament and absent from the last edition due to injury and Covid.
MOHAMED SALAH (Egypt)
The 31-year-old Liverpool forward is a standout in the English Premier League and a revered figure in the Arab world. Currently sharing the top scorer spot in the Premier League with 14 goals, he’s been instrumental in propelling Liverpool to the table’s summit.
However, Jurgen Klopp’s team faces a potential setback in their title pursuit, risking the absence of Salah for four league games if he competes in the AFCON with Egypt.
Despite this, Salah, who debuted internationally in 2011, aspires to go the distance at the AFCON, aiming to build on Egypt’s seven Cup of Nations titles, with hopes of surpassing previous final defeats in 2017 and 2022.
SADIO MANE (Senegal)
Sadio Mane emerged as the hero, propelling Senegal to their first-ever Cup of Nations victory in 2022 by netting the decisive penalty in the shoot-out against Egypt in Yaounde.
Despite being the runner-up for the Ballon d’Or in 2022 and the two-time former African footballer of the year, concerns linger about his career trajectory since then. Injuries sidelined him for the Qatar World Cup, and a swift departure from Bayern Munich after just one season led him to Al Nassr in the Saudi Pro League.
At 31, there are apprehensions about whether Mane has lost some of his prowess post-European departure, but Senegal fans remain hopeful. Maintaining an impressive goal-scoring record at his current club, where he partners with Cristiano Ronaldo, Mane remains a key figure in Senegal’s pursuit of defending their continental crown.
SERHOU GUIRASSY (Guinea)
Ranked 15th in Africa and having left a minimal impact on recent AFCON tournaments, Guinea faces a challenging group containing Senegal, Cameroon, and Gambia. Despite their modest standing, they possess Guirassy, a standout 27-year-old French-born striker who has been sensational in the German Bundesliga this season.
Formerly part of the France Under-20 international squad, Guirassy consistently scored 10 league goals per season over the last three years at Rennes and VfB Stuttgart. However, his current campaign with Stuttgart has been exceptional, tallying 19 goals in 16 games across all competitions, including two hat-tricks, propelling Stuttgart to third place in the table.
Only Harry Kane of Bayern Munich has surpassed Guirassy’s goal count in the Bundesliga. The question now is whether he can replicate his club success on the international stage, where his record with Guinea has been modest thus far.
ACHRAF HAKIMI (Morocco)
The dynamic right-back from Paris Saint-Germain stands out as the shining star in a Morocco team currently holding the top spot in Africa. Heading into the AFCON with lofty aspirations after reaching the World Cup semi-finals just over a year ago, Morocco boasts a formidable asset in Hakimi.
Despite being the runner-up to Osimhen for the African footballer of the year award, Hakimi, traditionally a defender, poses a significant attacking threat down the flank.
His exceptional form for the club this season amplifies his impact. With Hakimi staying fit and delivering his best performances, Morocco stands a strong chance of clinching their first AFCON title since 1976.