Top European League Stars at Africa Cup of Nations 2022

The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) returns to its spot in the middle of the domestic European season. Much to the dismay of many club managers around the world, they will be without some of their star players at a critical point of the season. However, what is a club’s loss is more than a benefit for some of the biggest nations competing at the AFCON this winter. But, who are the biggest European stars that will be playing in the premier African international competition in early 2022?

Mohamed Salah

It would be difficult to argue against the argument that few club sides will be as handicapped during the Africa Cup of Nations than Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp believes that Salah is currently the best player in Europe, but he will be without his talisman, as he heads away to represent Egypt. Salah’s involvement at the AFCON immediately makes Egypt a dangerous threat for the title, as they look to improve on their disappointing exit in the round of 16 stage from the 2019 tournament.

Much was expected of Egypt and Salah in that competition, but they fell at the hands of South Africa. However, there will be renewed hope in the 2021 event, as they have been drawn alongside Nigeria, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau. Egypt fans will be hoping that Salah can maintain his strong start to the new season, as he has already scored 15 goals in 12 appearances in all competitions.

Riyad Mahrez

Algeria come into the 2021 African Cup of Nations as the defending champions, and will be looking to win a third title this winter. They are already among the leading contenders in the online soccer betting markets, and it’s hard to argue against their chances considering the form that they showed in the previous tournament. Riyad Mahrez was excellent in the competition two years ago, as he scored three goals, as Algeria beat Senegal in the final.

His most crucial input came in the semi-final, as he scored in the fifth minute of injury time to guide Algeria past Nigeria. Mahrez will once again be crucial for Algeria this winter. The Manchester City star has already scored seven goals in 12 games in all competitions, with three of his goals coming in the Champions League. Unlike Liverpool, City likely have the players needed to deal with the absence of their winger.

Victor Osimhen

While we may have indicated that Liverpool will suffer without their African players in January and February, it’s likely that Napoli will also have struggles. Victor Osimhen has been one of the stars in Serie A so far this season, as he has scored five times in eight games. His form has also carried over into the Europa League, as he has scored four in three, with two of those coming in a thrilling draw against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.

Osimhen will have a crucial part to play for Nigeria in the winter, as they look to improve from their semi-final exit two years ago. They had excellent firepower in that competition, as Odion Ighalo ended the AFCON at the top-scorer with five goals. However, Osimhen will be expected to take the nation to this next level in 2021, and they should at least reach the knockout rounds, as they were drawn alongside Egypt, Sudan, and Guinea-Bissau.

Kalidou Koulibaly

Senegal came so close to winning the African Cup of Nations in 2019, but they were beaten by Algeria 1-0 in the final in Cairo. There is no denying that they are more than set up again to deliver a strong challenge, with talent, such as Sadio Mane at the top end of the pitch, and Kalidou Koulibaly at the other end. The defender looks set to be their most important player, as it was Senegal’s excellent defensive record that was the crucial aspect of them reaching the final two years ago.

With Koulibaly at the heart of the defense, it’s likely that they will once again have the defensive solidity that they need to go far in the competition this year. The central defender has enjoyed an excellent start to the Serie A season with Napoli this term, as he has been an integral part of the defense that has allowed just three goals in nine games. Senegal should be able to build momentum in the group stages, as they have been drawn in a very winnable group alongside Guinea, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Huynh Nguyen

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