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Top forwards in 2021 Africa Cup of Nations

Sat 22 January 2022 | 5:30

These days everyone in the African continent is talking about football and the 2021 African Cup of Nations. For this reason, in this article, we will take a look at some of the best forwards and strikers in this year’s edition of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Football is the hottest topic everywhere in the African continent since January 9th, when the 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations started. So far we have seen some surprises in the tournament, for example, Algeria being 4th in its group after two matches, whose famous striker Riyad Mahrez so far wasn’t able to help his team. Everyone will be waiting to see what they are going to do in their third group stage match against Ivory Coast.

In this year’s African Cup of Nations, there are some great forwards and strikers playing in their teams, which adds to the appeal of this football tournament. From the Cameroonian Vincent Aboubakar, who currently leads the top scorer list with five goals scored in three matches, to the Tunisian Wahbi Khazri and the famous Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, some of the best strikers are competing with each other in this tournament.

2021 Africa Cup of Nations Top Players

In order to get a better understanding of these forwards of the tournament, in this article we took a look at the rosters of all of the 24 participating teams to create this list of top forwards in the 2021

Africa Cup of Nations

. Stay tuned to see which of your favourite African forwards has been able to get a place for themselves in our list of 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Top Players.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

  • Full name: Jean-Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

  • Date of birth: 23 March 1989 (age 32)

  • Place of birth: Hamburg, West Germany

  • Height: 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)

  • Position: Forward

"Bayern Munich's 'reserve bomber' has had to face Covid in the recent weeks. He is a full-fledged German and was born in Hamburg to a Teutonic mother and a Cameroonian father, but has decided to represent the country of Yaoundé. He has been an important part of the Indomitable Lions since 2010 and has often played alongside Vincent Aboubakar.

The Atalanta fans, unfortunately, will remember him well: he scored the 1-2 goal in the 93rd minute, which together with Marquinhos' goal, brought the French side to a comeback against Atalanta, who was leading until the 90th minute of the Champions League quarter-final second leg through Pasalic's goal.

With 60 caps to his name, the Bayern Munich striker is certainly one of those players who can make a difference in attacking situations. Choupo-Moting has made many decisive appearances for the German club and is able to provide an important goal at any time.

At this year’s African Cup of Nations, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting started the tournament as a substitute when he entered the pitch in the 69th minute to replace Karl Toko Ekambi. However, he failed to add another goal to the two goals scored by his teammate Vincent Aboubakar. In Cameroon’s second match which ended in a 4-1 win against

Ethiopia

, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting started the match only to be replaced by James Léa Siliki in the 56th minute, once again not being able to find the net.

His third appearance was again a substitute one as this time Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting entered the pitch on 70th minute to replace Nicolas Moumi Ngamaleu. During all these matches, while he has not played the full 90 minutes, he has so far not been able to score a goal, but with the goalscoring talent that he has got, many believe that he can be decisive for the Cameroon national team in the coming matches of the Africa Cup of Nations 2021.

Gabadinho Mhango

  • Full name: Hellings Frank Mhango

  • Date of birth: 27 September 1992 (age 29)

  • Place of birth: Chiweta, Malawi

  • Height: 1.62 m (5 ft 4 in)

  • Position: Forward

The 29-year old Gabadinho Mhango is another example of a rather low profile football player to appear in our list of top forwards in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. Yet he has been able to establish himself as one of the top goal scorers in this year’s African Cup of Nations and has one of the best goal-scoring ratios alongside the Cameroon striker Vincent Aboubakar.

After he did not play in his team’s first group stage match against

Guinea

, which they lost 1-0, it was their second game that Gabadinho Mhango started the match and scored two goals to win the three points for his country against Zimbabwe. After Ishmael Wadi scored a goal in the 38th minute for Zimbabwe, Mhango just needed five minutes to equalize the match with a right-footed shot on an assist from Francisco Madinga. Gabadinho Mhango added his second goal of the game and tournament in the 58th minute.

Although Gabadinho Mhango and his teammates have a tough task against Senegal’s of Sadio Mane and their other superstars, but many believe that they have every chance of qualifying for the knockout stage as one of the tournament’s best third-placed teams, so we can expect Gabadinho Mhango to play even more and maybe score some other goals in the process.

Mhango started his football on youth level playing for Brave Warriors. The scout of Big Bullets FC became interested in the Malawian when he scored 6 goals in one game, which took him to the club in 2012. The striker, however, was transferred to Bloemfontein Celtic after just one season. There he played for 3 years.

Mhango was loaned to Golden Arrows for six months on 28 January 2016. Following the end of his loan, he transferred to Bidvest Wits. He also played there for 3 seasons. The Malawian signed for Orlando Pirates in 2019, where he still plays today.

Mhango debuted for the Malawi national team during their match against

Ghana

(0:2), stepping onto the pitch in the 63rd minute and replacing Frank Banda. The Malawian has so far played 55 times for his national team and scored 12 goals.

Kelechi Iheanacho

  • Full name: Kelechi Promise Iheanacho

  • Date of birth: 3 October 1996 (age 25)

  • Place of birth: Owerri, Nigeria

  • Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)

  • Position: Forward

Kelechi Iheanacho is a 25-year-old who is making a name for himself at Leicester in England. The Nigerian international has made a difficult start to his career, but he is flourishing with the Foxes. With the absence of Victor Osimhen through injury in the 2021 African Cup of Nations, the striker is expected to make the most of his time with the Super Eagles and put in some fine performances for the club.

In fact, the player need no more than 30 minutes to prove his talent in the African Cup of Nations as he managed to score the only goal of the Nigerian national football team in the match against

Egypt

of Mohamed Salah. He score that left-footed shot on an assist from his teammate Joe Aribo to collect all the important three points against Egypt, which is considered one of the strong favourites to win the trophy of AFCON 2021.

Kelechi Iheanacho started Nigeria’s second group stage match against Sudan, a match that they managed to win 3-1. However, Kelechi Iheanacho failed to score again for his national team and was substituted in the 65th minute with Ahmed Musa taking his place. We will have to wait and see if he can score more goals in the Africa Cup of Nations 2021.

The first time Iheanacho was selected for the national team was on 13 November 2015 against Swaziland in a 2018 World Cup second qualifying round. He scored his first goal in his third appearance against Mali in a friendly match and provided an assist in his first start against Luxembourg a few days later.

His first official game goal came against Tanzania with a brilliant strike in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. A couple of weeks later, Nigeria started the final round of

World Cup

qualifying. In the first group match, he netted a fine goal against

Zambia

in a 2-1 win. In total, he has scored 12 goals for Nigeria in 40 matches since 2015.

Ibrahima Koné

  • Full name: Ibrahima Koné

  • Date of birth: 16 June 1999 (age 22)

  • Place of birth: Bamako, Mali

  • Height: 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)

  • Position: Forward

He may be one of the low profile football players to appear in our list of top forwards in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, but the young Malian forward has been a surprise package at the tournament as so far has managed to score two goals in two matches, being the youngest goalscorer in the top of the goal scorers list with just 22 years of age.

Having started his team’s opening match against

Tunisia

on 12 January, Ibrahima Kone was able to score his first goal of the tournament in the 48th minute of the match, when he perfectly converted his penalty kick which was awarded to them following a handball by Ellyes Skhiri. That match ended 0-1 for Mali.

Ibrahima Kone once again scored another penalty for his country to get his name to the tops of the 2021 African Cup of Nations goalscorer list, just behind the Cameroonian Vincent Aboubakar. In that match against the Gambia, Kone’s team fell victim to a late penalty kick which tied the match.

The Malian national team who are currently top of their group with four points in two matches will have an easy job to do against

Mauritania

to pack their bags for the knockout stage matches. Will Ibrahima Kone be able to score more goals for his team in the rest of the tournament? Well, with the talent that this young player has, we will surely see him score more goals in this year’s African Cup of Nations.

Since currently he is playing for the modest Norwegian club Sarpsborg 08, many football experts believe that if Ibrahima Kone continues his great form in the 2021 African Cup of Nations tournament, the young Malian football will definitely be able to get himself a transfer to a top European club this summer. We will have to wait and see how everything will go for the young footballer in the 2021 African Cup of Nations and if he will be able to establish himself amongst the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations top players or not.

Riyad Mahrez

  • Full name: Riyad Karim Mahrez

  • Date of birth: 21 February 1991 (age 30)

  • Place of birth: Sarcelles, France

  • Height: 1.79 m (5 ft 10 in)

  • Position: Striker

One of the main architects of Leicester City's sensational historic success to become England's best team in 2016. A great moment the Algerian was able to turn into a transfer to Manchester City, which looked like an obvious move. A player of such stature under the watchful eye of Pep Guardiola could only benefit greatly. However, the beginnings were torturous. In fact, it seemed that Mahrez would be unable to adapt, but he too silenced all critics.

The 30-year-old's recent performances have demonstrated how hard the Citizens can feel his absences. The highly-talented winger has been part of the club's goals more times than any other player this season. Although he may not be the team's biggest star, he is surely an indispensable figure at times. So the Manchester City coach has a tough nut to crack.

Yet it is hardly surprising Mahrez was keen to go to the 2021 African Cup of Nations. The point about representing the national colours is obvious, but there is another, equally crucial one. Algeria won the African Cup of Nations two years ago and this year they are aiming to defend their title. There is nothing else that matters. Missing Mahrez would almost take away any chance, but with him, anything is possible.

Beginning wide on the right, he enjoys moving into the centre of the box and providing the finishing touch with his delicate left foot. The Citizens' number 26 is constantly a thorn in the side of opposing defences. Mahrez is the biggest reason why Algeria became champions a couple of years ago. He is extremely talented and City realised this a few years ago by snatching him away from Claudio Ranieri's Leicester.

With all the hype around him, however, Riyad Mahrez has not managed to score a single goal for his team and against all odds, his team, which is the defending champions of the tournament are currently lying in the last place of Group E with one point from their goalless draw against Sierra Leone. They have also lost their second match against Equatorial Guinea with a score of 0-1 and in order to be able to advance to the next round, Riyad Mahrez and his teammates need to clinch a win against

Ivory Coast

in the Africa Cup of Nations 2021.

Sebastien Haller

  • Full name: Sébastien Romain Teddy Haller

  • Date of birth: 22 June 1994 (age 27)

  • Place of birth: Ris-Orangis, France

  • Height: 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)

  • Position: Forward

Sebastien Haller eventually decided to play for the Ivorian national team in 2020, following a spell with the French youth ranks. This choice was rather a good one for the Elephants, as the team now has another gem in its ranks. A forward who stands at 1.90m tall, he has a certain commanding presence in the opposition box, allowing him to create numerous opportunities in various matches. Having scored four goals for Ajax against Sporting

Portugal

, Haller made Champions League history. But what if he also makes history at this year's African Cup of Nations in January?

In the opening match of Ivory Coast in the 2021 African Cup of Nations against

Equatorial Guinea

, Sebastien Haller started the match and was on the pitch for 82 minutes, before giving his place to Christian Kouamé and failed to score a goal for his team.

Sebastien Haller actually had to wait for their second group stage match against Sierra Leone to score his first goal of the 2021 African Cup of Nations. It was actually in the 25th minute of the match that the tall striker managed to score a right-footed shot on a pass from Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha to make it 1-0. Sebastien Haller played the whole match which ended 2-2. With four points in 2 matches, they need to win their last group stage game against Algeria if they want to finish as group leader.

On the other side, this match will be Algeria’s last hope if they want to make it to the knockout stage of the tournament, something that would be a big upset for the defending champions if they can’t do it. Thus, it is going to be a huge match for both teams and the Elephants fans are hoping that Sebastien Haller will be able to make an impact and guide them to the next round.

The top scorer of the Champions League and Eredivisie standings has definitely also gained the sympathy of his country's fans. During an interview with the Dutch 'De Telegraaf', he responded that it is downright unacceptable to ask him questions about whether the Africa Cup of Nations is important to him. He said it is a matter of honour and he will do his best to make the nation proud.

With this attitude, we can expect the best version of Haller at the African championship. The current top scorer in the Eredivisie, Sébastien Haller has the potential to be one of the greats. We can only hope that his performances for the national team are in line with the good momentum of his season, so he can book his place in the list of 2021 Africa Cup of Nations top players.

Wahbi Khazri

  • Full name: Wahbi Khazri

  • Date of birth: 8 February 1991 (age 30)

  • Place of birth: Ajaccio, Corsica, France

  • Height: 1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)

  • Position: Striker

The 30-year-old Wahbi Khazri is now a key member of the Tunisian national squad. He is a true leader and one of the essential members of the Verts' system. While AS Saint-Etienne has had a complicated start to the season, the Tunisian international will be in form as usual at the African Cup of Nations. He is currently the top scorer for Saint-Etienne and has demonstrated throughout his career that he is willing to take responsibility and deliver to his team in complicated situations.

While the Tunisian national team did not have a good start to the 2021 African Cup of Nations as they lost their opening match against Mali with a score of 1-0, but in their second match against Mauritania, it was Wahbi Khazri that guided his team to a 4-0 win with two goals from himself. He scored his first goal of the match and the tournament on an assist from his teammate Anis Slimane with a right-footed shot in the 8th minute of the match.

It was on the 64th minute that he repeated the feat, scoring once again with a right-footed shot this time from an assist by Esperance player Ghaylen Chaaleli. With the goals scored in that match, Wahbi Khazri is currently one of the many players with two goals in the tournament and in case they can qualify from their group for the knockout stage, he will have the opportunity to challenge for the top scorer award against the likes of Vincent Aboubakar from Cameroon national team.

Khazri is a good passer of the ball, very good in front of the net and far from being stingy in his efforts. He will be one of the keys for the Tunisian national team in the tournament. In addition, his ability to score from free-kicks may also benefit the Eagles' system. The star player of this selection, he will also be keen to take revenge for the semi-final loss in the previous edition.

One interesting fact about the prolific goal scorer of the Tunisian national team is that since 2006/07, Wahbi Khazri has scored the most free-kicks in Ligue 1. He is ahead of Dimitri Payet and Angel DiMaria, which show how a great footballer and striker he is.

Sadio Mane

  • Full name: Sadio Mané

  • Date of birth: 10 April 1992 (age 29)

  • Place of birth: Bambali, Sédhiou, Senegal

  • Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)

  • Position: Forward

A Liverpool teammate of Salah, this player is another star of the competition. Playing wide on the left, he and the Egyptian have tormented English and European defences for years. The number 10 in Klopp's team, he also wears the same shirt in

Senegal

, his country. While Senegal is widely considered as one of the favourites to win this year’s African Cup of Nations, they had a difficult time in their very first group stage match against Zimbabwe.

While after the end of the 90 minutes and start of the extra time the match was still 0-0, it was Sadio Mane who managed to convert a penalty which was given to them following a handball of Kelvin Madzongwe and thus secure the three points of the match for his team.

In their second match, the team did not perform as expected from them and got a goalless draw against Guinea. If Sadio Mane and his teammates want to finish the group as leaders, they will have to win their last match against Malawi, something that they are expected to do easily.

Sadio Mane is very fast and very good from a technical point of view - especially with his right foot - and can do everything in the offensive phase: he can move closer to the goal than on the outside than Salah, but he also has the same ability not to give points at all. He has played 26 games with

Liverpool

, 10 goals and 1 assist so far this season.

Mané has so far won several honours on a personal level like the 2019 African Player of the Year and was the Premier League's top scorer also in that year. However, the Senegalese star was never able to win a title with his homeland, but he certainly wants to win one this year. While the Senegal team has a good chance to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament, Sadio Mane’s experience could prove crucial for them to win the African Cup of Nations for the first time in their history.

The Reds' winger has always insisted that he wants to achieve something with his national team. Senegal had not had such a strong and well-coordinated team for a long time. It is indeed possible for them to win the Africa Cup of Nations, but only if Mane manages to play at top speed. It will mainly depend on him to attack and score goals. Holding the great distinction of being the country's best footballer also comes with even greater responsibility.

Vincent Aboubakar

  • Full name: Vincent Aboubakar

  • Date of birth: 22 January 1992 (age 29)

  • Place of birth: Yaoundé, Cameroon

  • Height: 1.84 m (6 ft 0 in)

  • Position: Forward

While at the start of the 2021 African Cup of Nations no one was considering the Cameroonian Vincent Aboubakar to be amongst the best forwards of the 2021 African Cup of Nations, but the 29-year old centre forward who is way off the European football level and currently plays for the Saudi club Al-Nassr FC so far has been able to prove himself as one of the best strikers of the tournament, having scored five goals in three matches.

In Cameroon’s opening match in the tournament against Burkina Faso which was played on January 9, Vincent Aboubakar was able to score both of his team’s goals in a match that ended 2-1 for Cameroon. Vincent Aboubakar converted a penalty kick which was awarded to Cameroon after a foul on André Zambo Anguissa in the 40th minute, before scoring another goal once again from a penalty kick in the 45th minute.

Four days later, on January 13th, Cameroon had to play their second group stage match against Ethiopia. In this match, in which Cameroon won 4-1, Vincent Aboubakar once again turned out to be the absolute star of his team with two goals scored. His first goal of the match that was his third in the tournament came in the 55th minute, which he managed to score a header on an assist from his teammate Collins Fai. Just two minutes later, Vincent Aboubakar scored a left-footed shot to clinch his second brace in the AFCON 2021.

However, it wasn’t the end for Vincent Aboubakar as the talented and prolific goal scorer of the Cameroon national team managed to score his team’s only goal in their third and last group stage match against Cape Verde. The goal came in the form of a left-footed shot in the 39th minute of the match. With Cameron making it to the knockout stages of the tournament, many believe that Vincent Aboubakar has what it takes to score again and even win the top scorer title of this year’s Africa Cup of nations.

Having scored five goals in three matches so far in the tournament, there is no doubt that Vincent Aboubakar has successfully placed himself on the list of 2021 Africa Cup of Nations top players. If he keeps his currently playing level, we would definitely see more goals from him in the competition.

Mohamed Salah

  • Full name: Mohamed Salah Hamed Mahrous Ghaly

  • Date of birth: 15 June 1992 (age 29)

  • Place of birth: Nagrig, Basyoun, Egypt

  • Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)

  • Position: Forward

As one of the strongest players in the world, he is the shining star of this African Cup of Nations. This Liverpool star is Egypt's best hope of lifting the trophy. Having played two matches so far in the 2021 African Cup of Nations, Mohamed Salah was able to score the only goal for Egypt in their second group stage match against Guinea-Bissau, on an assist from Amr El Solia. In their first match against Nigeria, Salah was not able to help his nation escape a 1-0 defeat against the Super Eagles.

As one of the best players of the 2021 African Cup of Nations, Salah has a unique style of play, as he starts wide on the right and is literally deadly: he is extremely fast and has superb quality, is great at dribbling and is cool in front of goal. With a left-foot strike that is one of the best in the world, he has virtually no lack as an outside forward - his numbers speak for themselves.

He has improved dramatically over the years under Klopp, with whom he has won everything in England and Europe. In the second half of 2021, with the Reds, he has made 26 appearances, scored 23 goals and had 11 assists between the Premier League and the Champions League. Will he be able to guide his team under the Portuguese Carlos Queiroz another title in the African Cup of Nations?

Well, this is something that the Egyptians are eagerly waiting for, but so far judging by their performances in the first two group stage matches, it seems like that Mohamed Salah and co. will have a very hard task in front of them if they want to make it to the final and win the 2021 African Cup of Nations title.

While Salah definitely deserves a place in this list of 2021 Africa Cup of Nations top players, we will have to wait and see more performances of him in this year’s edition of the AFCON 2021 to see how well he will play for the Egyptian national team this year.

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source: SportMob
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