What is a World Cup? To some it’s just a football competition, to others it’s a festival of football that showcases the best players and teams from around the globe.
Whilst most fans will default to the obvious picks of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Lionel Messi’s Argentina there is another significant continent that all too often gets overlooked. Here we lift the lid on Africa with a look at the top five African stars to watch during World Cup 2022.
1. Sadio Mane, Senegal
Coming first in our look at the top five African stars to watch during World Cup 2022 is Sadio Mane; he’s the second Senegalese player to make the cut. Mane, who joined Bayern Munich from Liverpool in the summer, has established himself as one of the world’s best forwards over the last few years.
Mane formed part of a deadly attacking unit with fellow African Mo Salah at Liverpool; the duo inspired the Reds to a first ever Premier League title along with Champions League glory. Now he’s gone, many are citing Mane’s absence as a key reason for the Reds’ slow start this season.
Senegal wouldn’t be the same without Mane either. He’s their key man without question. Already in 2022 he’s helped them collect the African Cup of Nations crown and now many World Cup betting tipsters backing Senegal as dark horses for Qatar – Mane is the main reason for that.
2. Kamaldeen Sulemana, Ghana
Coming next in our list of five African stars to watch during World Cup 2022 perhaps the least well know of the lot: Kamaldeen Sulemana. He is a 20-year-old who plies his trade in France for Stade Rennais right now – albeit he is already tipped for bigger and better things.
Ghana won’t exactly be relying on Sulemana but the left winger is a player that is capable of producing game winning moment. His biggest attribute is definitely his ability to beat a man; he boasts quick feet, has a trick in the locker and has pace to burn.
Whilst he’s unlikely to rip up the entire group stage with Ghana in probably the toughest group of the lot, all it will take is Sulemana to have a backline on toast once and – should Ghana score at the end of it – he’ll instantly become very much a household name.
3. Kalidou Koulibaly, Senegal
Picking out a centre half isn’t always the sexiest of things to do but Kalidou Koulibaly is hard to ignore. The Senegal defender has long been a colossus but only the most hardcore of fans will have watched him on a regular basis with Serie A not as widely consumed as the English Premier League.
This summer though Koulibaly joined Chelsea and already fans – particularly those based in England – have started to rave about his ability both on and off the ball. With Senegal’s best chance of progress in Qatar likely to come from a solid foundation, Koulibaly will be vital.
You can expect dominant aerial performances, exemplary reading of the game, a calmness in possession that allows his team to build up from the back and, if his recent goal for Chelsea versus Tottenham is anything to go by, possibly some first class finishing skills!
4. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Cameroon
Most football fans will have heard of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting but what exactly is he? He’s a funny player to place in our opinion. He’s led a rather nomadic career without ever truly nailing down a nailed-on starting spot. The fact remains though that clubs like PSG and Bayern Munich don’t sign you if you’re not special.
It’s that ability to deliver special moments – rather than consistent form – that makes him one of the top five African stars to watch during World Cup 2022. Cameroon isn’t blessed with the best squad at the tournament but a strong headwind could easily see them progress into the knockout stages.
Choupo-Moting has a role to play in that too. Take last season for instance; he didn’t get masses of game time for Bayern but across the 496 minutes he did play, he chipped in with nine goals and five assists. That’s a goal contribution every 36 minutes, which is nuts. If he repeats that in Qatar and Cameroon will be laughing.
5. Achraf Hakimi, Morocco
Morocco is not amongst the fancied sides to go deep at Qatar 2022 owing to the fact they’re in a group with Croatia and Belgium but when they can boast a player with the talents of Achraf Hakimi in their ranks you can never say never. Hakimi really is that good.
When you consider that England’s top flight is the most watched league in the world, there is little surprise that fans rave about the offensive output of Trent Alexander-Arnold. Hakimi though is one of just a handful of full-backs that can put their goal contribution record against TAA’s and not be outshone.
The now PSG defender has done it on a consistent basis as well. In 19/20 he scored five and assisted 10 in 33 appearances for Dortmund. The next year Hakimi netted seven and laid on a further 10 as he won Serie A with Inter and last year he hit double figure goal contributions for PSG as they won Ligue 1. He’ll be massive for Morocco in this tournament.
There you have it, the top five African stars to watch during World Cup 2022. Who did we miss? Which African side will go further in the tournament? Let us know in the comments below.