Who Are The Players to Watch?

Posted January 19th, 2015 at 4:37 pm (UTC-4)
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That African teams are a consistent source for some of the football world’s best talent is no surprise to anyone who’s paying attention. Think Didier Drogba, George Weah and Samuel Eto’o.

Unfortunately for fans of African football, neither Drogba nor Eto’o will be appearing in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations for their respective sides, Cote D’Ivoire and Cameroon.

Still there will be plenty of shimmering skill and speed to watch in the continent’s premier football competition.

Here’s an unscientific listing of some of the best players taking to the pitches in Equatorial Guinea. It is by no means comprehensive so if you think we’ve missed someone, let us know!

 

Gabon’s Aubameyang celebrates after scoring against Burkina Faso during their soccer match at the African Cup of Nations on Jan. 17, 2015. (REUTERS)

Player: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Country: Gabon

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Position: Forward

Aubameyang has already started out the tournamentstrong, scoring once to help lead Gabon to a 2-0 victory over Burkina Faso.  His professional career includes stints with A.C. Milan, St.-Etienne and some smaller clubs, before ending up in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund in 2013, where he scored 13 goals in his first season. This season, he’s netted five so far for the German side, and another six in German Cup and Champions League action.

 

Yaya Toure, of Manchester City, fights for the ball with Sheffield Liam Palmer during their FA Cup third round soccer match at the Etihad stadium in Manchester Jan. 4, 2015. (REUTERS)

Player: Yaya Toure

Country: Cote D’Ivoire

ClubManchester City

Position: Midfielder

Toure has long attracted plaudits for his play, and he’s been voted CAF’s Africa Player of the Year for four years straight. With Manchester City, he helped the English club to bring home the Premier League title last summer, and he scored 11 goals and had eight assists in the second half of the season. At last year’s World Cup, however, his performance, and that of his entire team, was widely considered underwhelming, where Les Elephants failed to advance beyond the group stage for the third time in as many World Cup appearances.

 

AC Milan’s Zapata tackles AS Roma’s Gervinho during their Italian Serie A soccer match in Rome. (REUTERS)

Player: Gervinho

Country: Cote D’Ivoire

Club: A.S. Roma

Position: Forward

Formally known as Gervais Yao Kouassi, Gervinho played well at Arsenal, and Lille before that, but then suffered a slowdown in the 2012-2013, and was transferred to Roma in Serie A, where he scored 12 goals, including  nine league goals. This year, he’s already netted five for Roma. He also put in a strong performance during the World Cup, where he scored twice, including a widely praised effort against Colombia.

 

Wilfried Bony, of Swansea City, celebrates scoring a goal, that was later disallowed, during a recent English Premier League soccer match at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea. (REUTERS)

Player: Wilfried Bony

Country: Cote D’ Ivoire

Club: Manchester City

Position: Striker

After five seasons with smaller European clubs, Bony ended up in the Premier League in 2013, with Swansea City, where he netted FA Cup goals over Manchester United and Birmingham City and then a strong five goals in his last four league matches of the season.  On Jan. 14, just days before the 2015 Africa Cup tournament kicked off, Manchester City announced Bony would be joining his countryman Toure on the team, for an eye-popping $51 million. Bony also netted two goals in the World Cup – one against Japan, the other against Greece.

 

Porto’s Brahimi fights for the ball with Benfica’s Pereira during a recent Portuguese Premier League soccer match at Dragao stadium in Porto. (REUTERS)

Player: Yacine Nasr Eddine Brahimi

Country: Algeria

Club: FC Porto

Position: Midfielder

Last year, Brahimi joined FC Porto, in  Portugal’s Primeira Liga, after several years of middling performance with Granada CF in La Liga. With Porto, Brahimi scored six goals in 15 appearances and netted a hat trick in the club’s first Champions League group match. A goal and assist in the Nov. 5 match-up against Atletico helped lead Porto to the knockout round for the Champions League. He also netted a beautiful goal for Algeria against South Korea in last summer World Cup group stage. BBC readers last year voted  Brahimi as the African Footballer of the Year for 2014.

 

Ghana's Gyan heads to score against Portugal during their 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match at the Brasilia national stadium in Brasilia

Ghana’s Gyan heads to score against Portugal during their 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match at the Brasilia national stadiu. (REUTERS)

Player: Asamoah Gyan

Country: Ghana

Club: Al Ain of the UAE Pro-League

Position: Striker

Gyan’s move from the Premier League’s Sunderland in 2011 to the United Arab Emirates raised eyebrows but his two World Cup goals last year against Portugal and Germany garnered plaudits, and made him the Africa’s all-time leading scorer at the World Cup. Gyan’s superlative performance however, was eclipsed by Ghana’s poor record, where the Black Stars failed to exit the group stage. He was the top scorer in the Asian Champions League last year, with 44 goals in 40 games. Gyan has already made headlines in Equatorial Guinea for contracting malaria on the eve of the tournament.

 

Mike Eckel
Mike Eckel's dreams of being drafted by Man United or FC Barcelona peaked when he was captain of his high school football team, but ended during his short-lived college career. He continues to be an avid player (midfield) however and holds out hope that Jozy Altidore will get his act together for 2018. When not running VOA's football blogs, he writes about Russia, international war crimes, Central Asia corruption and oversees VOA's multimedia collaboration efforts.

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