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

CityPress - - Sport -

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.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

NOT AVAIL­ABLE Joël Matip

PHOTO: BARRY ALDWORTH / BACK­PAGEPIX

VOID Gerv­inho is in­jured

PHOTO: BARRY ALDWORTH / BACK­PAGEPIX

BIG BLOW Yan­nick Bo­lasie

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