Africa Cup of Nations 2015: The 6 players to watch out for.
1. Gervinho , Côte d’Ivoire
After being a flop at Arsenal, Gervinho has rediscovered his electrifying pace and eye for goal at Roma. Under the guidance of manager Rudi Garcia, the 27-year-old forward has become a force to fear thanks to his dribbling skills. With Didier Drogba now retired from international football and Yaya Touré experiencing a dip in form on last season, Gervinho will be all the more important for Les Eléphants.
2. Yannick Bolasie, DRCongo
Crystal Palace’s tricky winger could have represented France or England, but chose DRCongo in 2014. In qualifying, he scored two goals against Sierra Leone and inspired his team’s 4-3 victory against Côte d’Ivoire with three assists. The 25-year-old Bolasie enjoys taking on players, and if he can link up well with forward Trésor Mputu, their partnership will be formidable.
3. Jonathan Pitroipa, Burkina Faso
Named the Player of the Tournament at AFCON 2013, Pitroipa has lost none of the verve that saw him torment defenders, scoring six goals in qualifying. Quick on the turn, skilled and mesmeric, Pitroipa is coming into his own as a winger and will carry the weight of Les Etalons’ expectations on his shoulders.
4. André Ayew, Ghana
When he was dropped from Ghana’s squad for AFCON 2013 after a dispute with the country’s football association, his quality was sorely missed. His return to the team for the 2014 World Cup, where he scored twice, further highlighted his importance. The 24-year-old is quick, tricky and unpredictable. Asamoah Gyan, who top-scored for Ghana in the qualifiers, may well be the Black Star’s most prolific striker, but Ayew will likely be creating those chances.
5. Diafra Sakho, Senegal
Senegal are hardly lacking in the attacking department, but one man whose form may just carry them all the way is the 24-year-old forward Diafra Sakho. The West Ham striker did not feature in the qualifiers, but had hit 7 goals in 9 appearances for West Ham by December. If he makes it to Equatorial Guinea, his clinical eye for goal could provide a serious headache for his defensive opponents.
6. Yacine Brahimi, Algeria
Like his Algerian team, the Porto midfielder has flown under the radar for much of his career. But after being voted the BBC’s African Player of the Year in 2014, he will very much be in the spotlight. Deployed in a free role, playing in the hole, the young attacking midfielder scored 3 goals in qualifying, the highest in the team, and will be counted upon to deliver even more in Equatorial Guinea.