Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Most Dangerous Players Still in Contention

Alex GruberFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2013

Burkina Faso have made a big impact at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Burkina Faso have made a big impact at the Africa Cup of Nations.Gallo Images/Getty Images

As the Africa Cup of Nations reaches its semifinal stage, the players on the four remaining squads will surely be prepared to step up to guide their nation to victory. Mali will take on Nigeria, while surprise package Burkina Faso will face Togo.

Each team has 23 players on its squad, but each also has a player likely to stand out in his respective matchup. Here's a breakdown of each one.


Mali: Seydou Keita

The undoubted star of this Mali side, former Barcelona man Seydou Keita is the glue that holds the Eagles together. Having scored two of Mali's three total goals in this competition, he scored the vital equalizer in the second half against South Africa—a match Mali would win on penalties.

He is partnered in the midfield by tough-tackling Mohamed Sissoko, but Keita provides the composure and keeps things moving from the middle. Without him, the Malian force would be severely weakened, and the squad would not be where it is right now.


Nigeria: Emmanuel Emenike

When you score three goals through four games of a major international competition, that is certainly worthy of recognition. And that is exactly what Nigerian striker Emmanuel Emenike has done at AFCON 2013.

The Spartak Moscow attacker netted the opener in his side's thrilling win over Côte d'Ivoire, in the process knocking out one of the tournament favorites. Joining forces with crafty attacker Victor Moses, Emenike poses a threat to any defense on his day, and that will be especially true against Mali.


Burkina Faso: Alain Traoré

Cape Verde began the knockout stage as the true minnows and feel-good story of the tournament. But with them out of the way, Burkina Faso take up that mantle. Led by striker Alain Traoré, they won their group over Nigeria and Zambia and knocked out Emmanuel Adebayor's Togo.

Traoré is one of three players with three goals in this competition, joining Emenike and Ghana's Wakaso. The Lorient striker scored a stoppage-time equalizer to get a draw with Nigeria, and he bagged a brace against Ethiopia. He is undoubtedly the driving force behind this Cinderella story.


Ghana: Asamoah Gyan

The aforementioned Wakaso might be the one with three goals in South Africa, but it is captain Asamoah Gyan who is the real difference-maker in this squad. Gyan will be leading the line not just as captain, but as the prime attacking force in the Black Stars offense.

Just two goals shy of tying Abedi Pele's all-time scoring record for his country, Gyan netted in the match against Niger and would be a good bet to get on the scoresheet against Burkina Faso. He has dominated the UAE Pro League, and there is no reason why he can't dominate the Africa Cup of Nations.