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Five potential AFCON 2019 Best Player award winners

June 24, 2019 By Emmanuel K. Budu-Annor
The tournament is underway and some of the star players are already course to firing their countries to glory.

Africa's most prestigious football tournament has began and some of the continents finest talents have already started making names for themselves as teams battle out for supremacy. Even in these early days, the odds have been defied a few times with a host of underdogs proving to be too much to handle by some household names.

In scope, Live Soccer TV takes a keen look at some football stars who could potentially steal the show with the month-long campaign just taking off.

Mohamed Salah (Forward), Egypt

His legs do not seem to tire, do they? After leading Liverpool to the 2019 UEFA Champions League title, Mohamed Salah made a bow in Egypt's famous red and white colors in the curtain-raiser against Zimbabwe.

Just as expected, the 26-year-old winger showed glimpses of his efficiency on the flanks by instigating one attack. However, his quest to find the back of the net was rendered futile, thanks to the in-form Edmore Sibanda in the opposition's post.

With the 2018/2019 English Premier League Golden Boot locked safely in his cabinet, one would make a grievous mistake to write off Mohamed Salah as he has the potential to go all the win and make a name for himself as Egypt targets a record-eight Africa championship title.

Kalidou Koulibaly (Defender), Senegal

In contemporary times where top gongs are mostly awarded based on the number of goals bagged by a player, finding a center back in the mix of potential stars of a tournament is an rare spectacle. Such is the case of Senegal's Kalidou Koulibaly.

In the midst of a perfectly blended group, the Napoli center back is enroute to have an impressive campaign should the stars align in his team's favor. His combative nature was on display as the Teranga Lions kept Tanzania at bay in a 2-0 victory while his attacking prowess almost yielded good fruits during set-pieces.

Riyad Mahrez (Forward), Algeria

Despite having limited playing time at Manchester City last season, Mahrez's role for Algeria was always going to transcend what he was mostly subjected to on the Citizen's sidelines. As the skipper of the Desert Warriors, the 2016 African Player of the Year has already hit the ground running, scoring in the 2-0 win over Kenya in the first group game.

The goal only capped off a fine display as he was constantly a thorn in the flesh of the Harambee Stars. Should Mahrez replicate this form in subsequent outings, a podium finish with his team will be a well and truly deserving achievement.

Nicolas Pepe (Forward), Ivory Coast

An impressive season with Lille in the French Ligue 1 brought a return of 22 goals and 11 assists for Nicolas Pepe who deservedly got a call up to feature for Ivory Coast at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Marking his AFCON debut against South Africa, the 24-year-old winger was rampant in the Elephants' front line while also giving fans a sneak peak into his set piece execution abilities.

It is still early days yet but Nicolas Pepe could well emerge a star at the end of the campaign.

Sadio Mane (Forward), Senegal

Sadio Mane missed Senegal's opening group encounter with South Africa as a result of a suspension he picked up during the qualification phase. The 27-year-old winger is however expected to be in contention when the Teranga Lions take on Algeria in their second group fixture.

Mane bagged 26 goals and five assists across all competitions as Liverpool finished second in the Premier League and won the UEFA Champions League title this season. The Senegalese skipper scored 22 times in the English top-flight league to share the Golden Boot award with fellow Africans Mohamed Salah and Pierre-Emerick.

Players to watch:

Hakim Ziyech, Morocco

Thomas Teye Partey, Ghana

Wilfred Zaha, Ivory Coast

Samuel Chukwueze, Nigeria.

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