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AFCON 2023: Five players who have caught the eye

The Africa Cup of Nations is well underway with the lineup for the knockout rounds confirmed this week.

It’s been an action-packed tournament to date and as we prepare for the business end of the finals, we’ve picked out five players who have caught the eye at AFCON 2023 to date.

Logan Costa – Cape Verde

Cape Verde breezed into the knockout rounds after topping a group containing African heavyweights Egypt and Ghana.

The small island nation took seven points from their three group games, with Logan Costa impressing for Bubista’s side. The Toulouse centre-back won 15/21 duels across the three games and was excellent in the 2-2 draw with Egypt, in which the 22-year-old made seven clearances, blocked three shots and made two last-man tackles.

Costa has been integral for Cape Verde in the competition to date and the 6ft 3in defender will be central to his nation’s hopes of bettering their best-ever AFCON run to the quarter-finals in 2013. Cape Verde takes on Mauritania in the last 16 and will be strong favourites to progress.

Lamine Camara – Senegal

Senegal have been arguably the most impressive team in the tournament so far with the defending champions having qualified for the knockout rounds with a perfect record.

The Lions of Teranga have a nice mix of experience and youth, with Lamine Camara among the most eye-catching talents of the emerging generation. The Metz midfielder was named Player of the Tournament as Senegal won the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations last year and has impressed in the senior set-up, scoring six times in 20 caps since his debut in 2022, despite only celebrating his 20th birthday earlier this month.

Camara scored a brilliant brace in the opening win over Gambia, including a stunning effort from outside the area. An emerging star of Senegalese football.

Mohammed Kudus – Ghana

Ghana were one of the biggest casualties of the group stage as the four-time winners crashed out of the competition.

The exit of the Black Stars was not for want of trying from their leading light, however, as Mohammed Kudus lived up to his billing as Ghana’s star boy. Kudus missed the opening defeat to Cape Verde, but got Ghana’s campaign up and running as he scored twice in the 2-2 draw with Egypt.

He then won a penalty in the draw with Mozambique and was substituted with his side leading 2-0 and on course for the knockout rounds. Kudus could only watch on as Ghana conceded two stoppage-time goals to draw and crash out.

Emilio Nsue – Equatorial Guinea

This is AFCON heritage.

The leading scorer at AFCON so far is Emilio Nsue, a 34-year-old utility player who currently plays his club football in Spain’s third tier for CF Intercity.

Nsue, who counts Middlesbrough and Birmingham City among his former clubs, plays predominantly at right-back at club level but has led the line superbly at centre-forward for Equatorial Guinea. He scored a hat-trick in the 4-2 win over Guinea-Bissau, before netting twice more as Equatorial Guinea ran riot to thrash host nation Ivory Coast 4-0 and top the group.

In a tournament that has featured Mohamed Salah, Victor Osimhen and Serhou Guirassy among its leading goalscorers, it’s Nsue who leads the race for the Golden Boot.

What a story.

Kialonda Gaspar – Angola

Angola have reached the last 16 without losing a game, topping their group ahead of Burkina Faso.

Kialonda Gaspar has been a standout at centre-back for the Angolans, with the Estrela da Amadora defender averaging a huge 7.6 clearances per game.

Gaspar earned the man-of-the-match honours in the crucial 2-0 win over Burkina Faso, helping his side to a clean sheet and top spot in the group. It continues a strong campaign for the 26-year-old, who ranks seventh in Portugal’s Primeira Liga for clearances (86) so far this season.

Angola, who have never before gone past the quarter-finals at AFCON, face Namibia in the last 16 on Saturday.

Read – The players with the best xG overperformance in Europe’s top five leagues

See more – Five world-class players who arrived in the Premier League too late

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