Three Harambee stars players make top 10 in star-studded AFCON list
As the 2019 African Cup of Nations kicks off on Friday, several foreign-based stars will be returning home to represent their respective nations.
Nations from West and North Africa boast a number of top players including those from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and other top leagues.
However, Kenya has not been left behind in this as three stars make the list of ‘players to watch’ at the continent’s big event.
Here are some of the stars as seen by Game Yetu.
Victor Wanyama (Kenya and Tottenham Hotspur)
The Harambee stars’ skipper will be leading the national team out of the tunnel in Egypt after a successful Premier League season which saw Tottenham Hotspurs finish fourth, ahead of bitter rivals Arsenal and fall at the last hurdle in the UEFA Champions League.
These heroics seem to have pumped incredible amounts of confidence into the big captain after he was quoted issuing a warning to rivals ahead of AFCON kickoff.
Riyad Mahrez (Algeria and Manchester City)
The Algerian is fresh off winning his second Premier League title after finding the net seven times in his 27 league appearances for the Manchester City. The desert foxes will be counting on their star man to take charge in group ‘C’.
Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal and Napoli)
The Senegalese defender is arguably one of the best in the world at the moment and the most sought after in the European summer transfer window with the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid hot on his trail. He has been capped 32 times since making his international debut in 2015.
Michael Olunga (Kenya and Kashiwa Reysol)
Despite an uphill task that awaits the Harambee Stars, the Japan-based striker stood out during the qualifiers and pre-AFCON friendlies and he will, therefore, be tasked with replicating the form he has had as the team seeks to make it to the second round.
Just like former captain, Dennis Oliech was credited with sending the team to the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations finals, credit goes to Olunga for the success of the 2019 campaign.
Sadio Mane (Senegal and Liverpool)
He is one of the stars in the Senegalese AFCON squad that will face the Harambee Stars in the upcoming tournament. The former Southampton man is fresh from winning the Champions League with Liverpool and is pumped with morale despite falling at the last hurdle in the race for the Premier League title which they lost to Manchester City.
He managed 26 goals and five assists in all competitions in the just-concluded campaign with 22 of the goals coming in the English top flight.
Mohamed Salah (Egypt and Liverpool)
The Egyptian won the Premier League Golden Boot for a second consecutive year after he managed an incredible 22 goal tally and bagged 11 assists for Liverpool in the just-concluded campaign.
His heroics gifted the Reds Champions League glory two weeks ago after he scored in the Final against Tottenham Hotspur at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Ayub Masika Timbe (Kenya and Beijing Renhe)
The young Kenyan forward seems to have asserted himself as the fan favourite after his brilliance moves in pre-AFCON friendlies.
Fans have been going ‘Timbe crazy’ since a 22-second Facebook video of his move in the Kenya vs Congo pre-Afcon friendly match was posted by Radio Africa Journalist Carol Radull.
Kenyans will be hoping that he keeps on making such big moves even against mighty Senegal and Algeria.
Hakim Ziyech (Morocco and Ajax Amsterdam)
He is one of the players who spearheaded the Ajax fairy tale in Europe which saw them fall at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur in the semifinals of the Champions League. Domestically, he won a double after a brilliant run from a young squad set to be torn apart this summer. As a result, he was named the AFC Ajax Player of the Year for the second successive year.
Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria and Leicester City)
The Nigerian youngster was one of the best young players in the Premier League in the just-concluded campaign playing in all 38 games for Leicester City in the League. He has been capped 25 times by Nigeria and got a chance to star at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Nicholas Pepe (Ivory Coast and Lille)
The young Ivorian was outstanding in the 2018-19 campaign for Lille, guiding them to second place in the Ligue 1 with incredible 22 goals and 11 assists. His displays in France have attracted many suitors across Europe including Bayern Munich and Liverpool.
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