African Cup of Nations: Picking a Pre-Tournament Best XI Players Showcase

Peter Webster@@petercwebsterContributor IIIJanuary 20, 2012

African Cup of Nations: Picking a Pre-Tournament Best XI Players Showcase

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    The African Cup of Nations hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea kicks off tomorrow and it can't come a moment too soon for some.

    Amongst the competition's remaining squads lie some extremely gifted individuals that ply their trades at some of the most prestigious clubs in the world.

    Africa certainly has talent.

    Here I'm going to guide you through my picks of the best 11 players left in the tournament.

    Whilst I have tried to include a goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and an attacker within my picks, the resulting 11 are not going to be a viable playing formation that you could set up on FIFA when you get home from work.

    It is a homage to 11 great individuals that we will have the pleasure of watching over the next three weeks or so should we choose.

    I hope you enjoy.

Adam Larsen Kwarasey: Ghana

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    Ghana goalkeeper Adam Larsen Kwarasey is probably the most talented goalkeeper remaining in the ACoN.

    Kwarasey could quite easily not have been involved in this tournament if it was not for former No. 1 goalkeeper Richard Kingsons' errors in the qualifying matches.

    There will be a lot of pressure on the goalkeeper if he plays, as even at just 24 he is the oldest goalkeeper in the Ghana final 23-man squad.

    Kwarasey plays his club football in Norway for Stromsgodset. 

Demba Ba: Senegal

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    Senegal striker Demba Ba is going into the tournament in an extremely rich vein of club form which has seen him linked to a number of different Premier League clubs throughout the past few months.

    His national strike partner Papiss Cisse has recently joined him at Newcastle United and the duo will be looking to establish a good strike partnership during this tournament.

    Ba is a good tip for the golden boot if he can get his form going for his national side.

    Senegal are up there with a chance of winning the tournament, so there should be plenty of opportunities to see Ba in action.

Andre Ayew: Ghana

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    Olympique de Marseille midfielder Andre Ayew is just 22 years of age but considered to be rather hot property in the French League One division.

    Ayew was nominated for young player of the year in 2011 for the French outfit and also voted Marseille's best player of the season 2010/11.

    Ayew currently has six goals in 15 league appearances so far this season for his club and can play either as a striker or a winger.

Kolo Toure: Cote D'Ivoire

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    Manchester City defender Kolo Toure has the benefit of hailing from Cote d'Ivoire who are this year's hot favourites for the cup.

    At nearly 30 years of age, time is running out on Toure winning the African Cup of Nations so he will be looking to stamp his authority early on in this tournament.

    Toure is a rock solid defender who will be key to any success the Ivory Coast achieve. 

Cheick Tiote: Cote D'Ivoire

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    Another Newcastle United player featuring in the African Cup of Nations tournament is defensive midfielder Cheick Tiote.

    Much like his club mate Demba Ba, Tiote's performances for Newcastle this season have seen him linked with a move to a number of higher profile club's of late, but firm bids are yet to be offered.

    The 25-year-old has been rock solid for Newcastle in the Premier League so far and is playing in a strong Ivory Coast team that will likely see him paired with Ya Ya Toure in central midfield.

Ya Ya Toure: Cote D'Ivoire

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    Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure joins the African Cup of Nations along with his brother and club colleague Kolo.

    Toure is an exceptionally gifted midfielder who has a terrific engine for both attacking and defensive duties.

    His best position is considered to be central midfield where he will likely pair up with the aforementioned Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tiote.

Seydou Keita: Mali

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    Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita is the stand out performer of the Malian national team and has recently been linked with a move to Liverpool.

    Keita operates in the defensive central midfield position and is one of the best around when it comes to breaking up the play.

    At 32 years of age, the Malian captain may be winding down his African Cup of Nation playing days so will be looking to go out with a bang.

Sulley Muntari: Ghana

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    Inter Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari  is another central midfielder that has excellent ability.

    Muntari had a trial with Premier League outfit Sunderland last season, but the English club decided not to make the deal a permanent one.

    Muntari has had a number of disciplinary problems with his national team, but there is no doubting that when on form he is one of the best players that Ghana have.

Didier Drogba: Cote D'Ivoire

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    Chelsea striker Dider Drogba might be considered past his best, but the Ivorian is still a huge threat to any team he faces.

    Drogba will be joined in attack for the Ivory Coast by Arsenal forward Gervinho and Chelsea team mate Soloman Kalou which means he should get plenty of good service for goal scoring opportunities.

    Drogba has a tremendous goalscoring record for his country with 51 goals in 77 games and will be looking to add to that in what is likely his last African Cup of Nations tournament.

Gervinho: Cote D'Ivoire

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    Ivory Coast forward Gervinho has played more of a wider position for Arsenal than he did at Lille, and has provided a number of assists for their hitman Robin Van Persie.

    Gervinho has excellent pace and ability which should see him thrive in this tournament as he looks to provide Didier Drogba with similar service.

    Gervinho has seven goals in 32 appearances for Cote d'Ivoire.

Asamoah Gyan: Ghana

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    Asamoah Gyan left English club Sunderland under a cloud of uncertainty as one minute he was there, the next he was out on loan to Abu Dhabi side Al Ain where he has scored 12 goals in 10 appearances.

    New Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has admitted he has considered recalling Gyan back to Sunderland now he is in charge, but that is yet to happen so far.

    Gyan is lethal for Ghana having scored 28 goals in 55 appearances.

    He is currently managing a hamstring problem that may affect his performance profligacy.

After Thoughts

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    So there you have my verdict on some of the top talent on show in the African Cup of Nations this year.

    Africa has produced some wonderful footballers, and they seemed to really have a golden age a few years ago when the likes of Drogba began making a name for himself.

    There are many other quality players who haven't made this list of 11 such Soloman Kalou and Moussa Sow, with the latter recently declaring an interest in joining Liverpool FC.

    African's are becoming pivotal players in some of Europe's top sides as their tireless work ethic makes them invaluable defensive midfielders.

    You only have to read this article to see Keita at Barcelona, Tiote at Newcastle and YaYa Toure at Manchester City to see how well the continent has progressed in football of late.

    Whilst I'm aware this list is heavily laden with Ivory Coast and Ghanaians, the reason is simply because they are probably the two favourites for the competition and have the best individuals.

    The tournament itself will show whether they have the best teams.

    All in all there should be some great football on show which will be a thoroughly enjoyable spectacle.

    Please click here to see my top tips for the Euro 2012 golden boot.

    Also click here for a breakdown of the key battles between AC Milan and Inter Milan from the weekends derby match.

     Thanks for reading.


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