Top stars won’t sparkle at Afcon
When the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations gets the ball rolling on Saturday, some of the biggest names on the continent will be missing in action from Gabon, writes
While football’s cream of the crop on the continent will descend on Gabon for the 31st edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), some of the stars will be conspicuous by their absence for various reasons.
Some are nursing long-term injuries, others have made themselves unavailable for the tournament and the rest failed to make the cut.
But this will give others a chance to ascend the continental stage and show what they are made of.
While the likes of in-form Liverpool striker Sadio Mané will be joined by Wilfried Zaha, Riyad Mahrez and a number of other big-name players in Gabon, injuries have denied the likes of Ivory Coast skipper Gervinho and Yannick Bolasie of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) an opportunity to showcase their talent, and supporters will miss a chance of seeing their heroes in action.
Gervinho, in particular, has left a big void in the Elephants team, which will be looking to defend the title they won two years ago in Equatorial Guinea. With Yaya Touré already retired from international football, Gervinho was seen as the man to lead his country in Gabon. But a ruptured cruciate ligament has kept him away. West Ham United and Senegalese striker Diafra Sakho will also miss Afcon following a back injury. Ghana’s Black Stars had to replace Adam Kwarasey from the 23-man squad this week after the Rosenborg BK goalkeeper got injured while playing for his Norwegian club. The DRC will miss the services of Bolasie due to the knee injury he got when he was playing for his English Premier League side Everton. In fact, Bolasie’s injury is so serious that his manager, Ronald Koeman, has hinted he could be out for the rest of the year. As if that was not enough for Florent Ibengé’s team, Bournemouth FC forward Benik Afobe turned down a call to play for the country in Gabon. Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions will have to do without some players who have turned down their call-ups. Liverpool defender Joël Matip was the first to ask not to be considered for the showdown so he could cement his place in the Reds’ team. “It’s not an easy decision but I want to concentrate on Liverpool. I want to be here,” Matip told Liverpool’s website last month. This week Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting of German side Schalke 04 also pulled out, citing personal reasons, while right back Allan Nyom wanted to stay at West Brom, also to keep his place in the team.
NOT AVAILABLE Joël Matip
VOID Gervinho is injured
BIG BLOW Yannick Bolasie