The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is scheduled to kick off on January 9 and run until February 6, 2022. Once again, all eyes will be on our African superstars as they return to the international duty to defend the pride of their respective nations.
The AFCON has never failed to produce a spark, with many players having seized the opportunity to announce themselves to the world in the tournament over the decades. This edition promises to go the same route as the football world calmly anticipates what promises to be an intense battle between African heavyweights.
It goes without saying that the fight for the ultimate prize will surely dominate the tournament. But the quest to outshine one another by top talents will also enjoy a fair share of attention. That has inspired us to come up with a list of five players who are likely to light up the AFCON in 2022. They are as follows:
Achraf Hakimi is, without doubt, one of the players to keep an eye on in the AFCON tournament next year. The defender has taken his game to an incredible level over the last couple of seasons. He was highly influential as Inter Milan claimed the Serie A title last term, contributing seven goals and 10 assists in 37 appearances.
Thanks to that sensational outing, the right-back earned a big-money transfer worth €60 million to Paris Saint-Germain this summer. He’s off to a brilliant start in the French capital, having recorded three goals and two assists to his name in 22 games across all competitions so far this season.
Hakimi will be hoping to continue his incredible performances when he wears the Moroccan jersey in the AFCON. With his incredible level of performance at the moment, there’s no doubt he has what it takes to make a mark in the tournament.
The goalkeeper became a huge sensation for Chelsea between the sticks last season, guiding the Blues to claim the coveted Champions League trophy. He kept nine clean sheets in 12 appearances in the Champions League last season, conceding just three goals. The 29-year-old has taken up from where he left off this term.
So far, he’s kept 12 clean sheets for the Londoners in 23 games across all competitions. Mendy is currently among the finest goalkeepers in world football. It’s only natural that all eyes will be on him when he guards the goalpost for Senegal in the AFCON next year.
The Manchester City winger continues to impress with his incredible performances under Pep Guardiola at the Etihad. It’s been another prolific outing for the 30-year-old attacker, who has refused to slow down in front of the goal.
As it stands, Riyad Mahrez has a record of 11 goals and four assists to his name in 23 appearances for the Cityzens across all competitions this season. That includes four goals in the Premier League, five in the Champions League, and two in the EFL Cup.
The skilled winger is no stranger when it comes to lighting things up in the AFCON. He was highly influential as he led Algeria to triumph in the tournament during the 2019 edition, scoring three goals in seven games. Once again, his nation will be looking up to him to make a difference for the team when the AFCON kicks off in January.
Liverpool winger Sadio Mane is another superstar who could steal the show in the AFCON next year. The Senegalese need no introduction; he’s been at par with the most potent attackers in world football over the last couple of seasons.
Mane has scored seven Premier League goals for the Reds so far this season, earning him a spot among the most prolific goalscorers in the English top flight. He also has two goals to his name in six Champions League outings for the Merseysiders.
The Senegalese managed to lead his nation into the AFCON final in 2019 but they were unlucky to suffer a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of Algeria. Next year presents him with the opportunity to make up for that shortcoming and he’ll definitely be keen to grab it with both hands.
There’s no doubt Mohamed Salah will carry the most attention heading into the AFCON tournament in January. The Liverpool winger has been hailed by many as the best player in the world right now following his incredible start to the season.
The attacker has been in a class of his own since the campaign kicked off, tearing opposition defenses apart and scoring with ease. So far, he’s bagged 22 goals and nine assists for the Reds in 24 games across all competitions. That includes 15 goals in the Premier League and seven in the Champions League.
Salah’s numbers are taking him closer to the Ballon d’Or-winning level. Knowing the important role international competitions play in deciding the winner of major accolades these days, the Egyptian will certainly go all out in the AFCON.