We all know about Didier Drogba, Samuel Etoâ€™o and Michael Essien, but there are more than three players worth watching at the Africa Cup of Nations, which starts on 20th January. Courtesy of the good people from World Cup Blog (who’ll be covering the tournament in depth), hereâ€™s a quick run-down of 10 players worth keeping your eye on once the tournament kicks off this Sunday:
1. Pascal Feindouno (Guinea)
The St. Etienne playmaker is outrageously creative and has the sort of shot that should require a license for his right foot. Heâ€™s also unhappy right now playing in a St. Etienne team who are, quite frankly, pants. So any Premiership managers looking to add a Jay-Jay Okocha-like spark to their midfield could do a lot worse than Feindouno. Get an eyeful of his right peg in these first two goals.
2. Abdul Kader KeÃ¯ta (Ivory Coast)
Ever wondered how Lyon manage to dominate Ligue 1, even while continuously selling off their best players every year? The simple answer is that they use money from the sale of big name players to buy up other fine Ligue 1 talent, which is how they acquired Kader KeÃ¯ta from Lille recently. The tall, pacey right winger loves to roast a full-back and get amongst the goals, a bit like an African Cristiano Ronaldo.
3. Yassine Chikhaoui (Tunisia)
The 21-year-old attacking mid/striker is already earning comparisons to a certain Zinedine Zidane. Heâ€™s begun life at FC Zurich with seven goals in 16 games, which has attracted scouts from the standard big European clubs (Bayern, Ajax, etc.) Here’s a sneak preview of what the scouts will be seeing over the next few weeks.
4. Amine Chermiti (Tunisia)
Tunisiaâ€™s other big hope is this 19-year-old Ã‰toile du Sahel striker. The fiery young man is suspended for the first two African Cup of Nations games, but should still have time to make a huge impact at the tournament. Check out the determination and skill involved in this goal from the recent Club World Cup third place-playoff.
5. AndrÃ© â€œDedeâ€ Ayew (Ghana)
The 18-year-old Ghanaian left mid is currently with Marseille, but rumour has it Arsene Wenger is negotiating to sign Ayew as you read this. Thereâ€™s no doubting the young fellaâ€™s pedigree, his dad is none other then greatest African player of all time AbÃ©di PelÃ©. Unortunately thereâ€™s no footage of Dede available on the web, but if heâ€™s got even half the talent of his pops (see video) then heâ€™s going to be one hell of a player.
6. Marouane Chamakh (Morocco)
The 6â€™3â€, 23-year-old striker is already a dangerman in Ligue 1 with Bordeaux. His combination of physical presence, aerial threat, assured technique and nose for goal could easily see him dubbed â€œthe Moroccan Peter Crouch,â€ if only Chamakh wasnâ€™t already twice as good.
7. Ahmed Hassan (Egypt)
The Pharaohsâ€™ captain and the 2006 African Cup of Nations player of the tournament currently plays for Anderlecht in Belgium, but the attacking mid/right winger possesses the kind of skills that could come in handy anywhere. Iâ€™d personally pay good money to see Ashley Cole desperately trying to take the ball off Hassan.
8. Mamadou Niang (Senegal)
The Premier League already has two Senegalese strikers in El-Hadji Diouf and Henri Camara, but there’s plenty more where that came from. Niang has been on fire (not literally, heâ€™s just been scoring a lot) for Marseille in Ligue 1 and will expect to keep scoring in Ghana.
9. Manucho GonÃ§alves (Angola)
Manchester United have already signed this 6â€™2â€ striker from his Angolan club and are just waiting on a work permit (which could go either way.) Fergie seems to think Manucho is the sort of big center forward that will offer him an alternative to the little and little pairing of Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez. Hereâ€™s a little taste of what Fergie saw in him.
10. Seydou Keita (Mali)
All-action 27-year-old central midfielder playing for Sevilla in La Liga. Arsenal fans may remember him scoring against the Gunners in the Champions League this season, but Real Madrid fans will doubtless remember Keita scoring this wonder striker against their team.
For more in-depth tournament coverage, follow the Africa Cup of Nations at World Cup Blog.