Afcon: If each Nations Cup contender could have one legend back…

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If each Africa Cup of Nations contender could have one iconic player back for the 2019 tournament, who would they choose?

  1. Christian Fischer/Bongarts/Getty Images

    Cameroon

    With Joel Matip and Nicolas Nkoulou both staying away, Cameroon are a little short in the heart of the defence, where Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui will likely partner Yaya Banana.

    Any limitations at the back, however, would be quickly solved by Rigobert Song in his prime. The former Liverpool man didn’t enjoy a truly glorious career at club level, but he captained the Indomitable Lions to back-to-back Afcon titles in 2000 and 2002.

    He’s also solve the Central Africans’ leadership vacuum.

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    Ghana

    There are plenty of concerns about this Ghana side, who are patched up as they approach the Afcon following an injury crisis.

    While various areas of their team need work, we don’t think there’d be any legend more valuable to restore to the team than Abedi Pele.

    He was a Nations Cup winner in 1982, would help make the team more clinical going forward, and could be the offensive x-factor needed to end the Black Stars’ long, long wait for a continental crown.

  3. Morocco

    Even though Youssef En-Nesyri has begun to take the mantle of Morocco’s centre-forward from Khalid Boutaib, the striking berth is yet to truly be an area of strength for the Atlas Lions…particularly considering some of the players their rivals can call upon.

    That’s why Ahmed Faras would make such a big difference to this squad.

    He’s the North Africans’ top scorer of all time, twice the highest scorer in the Botola, and, crucially, has experience of winning the Afcon—he was a champion with the North Africans in 1976.

    The interplay with Hakim Ziyech would be something beautiful.

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    Cote d’Ivoire

    The absence of Eric Bailly through injury gives the Ivory Coast a potential concern in the heart of the defence, one which Kolo Toure could have solved in his prime!

    However, for the purposes of this feature, we’ve gone for Didier Drogba.

    The striker never won the Africa Cup of Nations—a glaring omission from his glittering resume—and he’d solve the Ivorians’ concerns going forward.

    While Ibrahim Kamara has a plethora of scintillating superb attackers—the likes of Nicholas Pepe, Wilfried Zaha, and Max-Alain Gradel—he lacks that truly outstanding leading man, hence the move to recall Wilfried Bony after his recent decline.

    Drogba, who reached two Afcon finals, would have been an ideal striking solution, while Laurent Pokou could have also bene the missing piece of the jigsaw in this Ivorian side.

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    Senegal

    The Teranga Lions have strength across the park: a fine goalkeeper, a world-class centre-back and defensive midfielder, excellent wingers and, in Sadio Mane and Mbaye Diagne, a genuine source of goals.

    What they perhaps lack, assuming Mane plays in a more advanced role, is a touch of creative genius a little deeper in the park.

    Perhaps Khalilou Fadiga, a veteran of the 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists, could add a spark of magic to the Senegalese midfield.

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    Tunisia

    With Mohamed Amine Ben Amor and Salah Eddine Khaoui missing out due to injury, and concerns about Ferjani Sassi’s fitness, Tunisia risk being a little light in the centre of midfield at the Nations Cup.

    Imagine, then, the influence that Tarek Dhiab could have had—in his prime—back in the heart of this team.

    The playmaker never won the Nations Cup, although he did reach the final four in 1978, and he surely wouldn’t allow the Carthage Eagles’ Group E opponents a look-in!

  7. NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images

    Nigeria

    Purists would love to see Jay-Jay Okocha or Nwankwo Kanu grace the Nations Cup once again in their prime, but right now, the most valuable player for Nigeria would probably be Vincent Enyeama.

    Appearing to be unconvinced with young stopper Francis Uzoho, Gernot Rohr has given his erstwhile third-choice goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi a series of starts in recent matches, and the German coach appears to be dithering at the death.

    The Cat, in his prime, would have solved all of these goalkeeping concerns, and would ensure the Super Eagles have one of the best defensive units in the tournament.

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    South Africa

    Bafana Bafana aren’t lacking defensive strength or quality in midfield, even if injured duo Itumeleng Khune and Rivaldo Coetzee represent considerable losses.

    What they are missing, however, is a clinical finisher, even though Lebo Mothiba has had a fine season in France with Strasbourg.

    Keagan Dolly’s absence through injury threatens to further diminish Bafana’s cutting edge, a significant concern considering they were recently held 0-0 by the Seychelles.

    Who better, then, than Benni McCarthy, South Africa’s all-time top scorer.

    He wasn’t present for the Nation Builders’ Afcon success in 1996, and had would have had the quality to fire Stuart Baxter’s side out of the Group of Death.

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    Egypt

    The Pharaohs have, in recent years, been accused of being a little too one-dimensional, being over-reliant on Mohamed Salah, and lacking a Plan B.

    While this criticism is a little harsh, after all, the likes of Trezeguet and Marwan Mohsen have chipped in with goals in recent months, there remain valid concerns.

    That’s why we’d love to see Mohamed Aboutrika—in his pomp—back in the North Africans’ set-up.

    Back in his famous Number 22 shirt, the former Al-Ahly great could—in tandem with his successor Salah—have added a third Nations Cup crown to the pair he won in 2008 and 2010.