Top Five: Breakout stars of the Afcon group stage

Joseph Okumu of Kenya during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals football match between Algeria.
Ed Dove reveals his top five breakout stars from the Africa Cup of Nations group stage

  1. Wonlo Coulibaly

    Wonlo Coulibaly

    Not only is Coulibaly the only home-based outfield player included in the Ivory Coast’s Nations Cup squad, but he’ s also started every game, with Ibrahim Kamara giving him the nod at left-back ahead of Stade Rennes full-back Souleyman Coulibaly.

    He hasn’t looked out of place, defending stoutly, looking comfortable in possession, and reading the game well.

    Only two players at the tournament have averaged more tackles per game than the ASEC Mimosas man.

  2. Joseph Okumu
    Goal Kenya.

    Joseph Okumu

    Kenya have fallen at the first hurdle, and struggled at the back, but at least they’ve identified the future of their defence in 22-year-old Joseph Okumu.

    The USA-based centre-back was somewhat harshly criticised by coach Sebastien Migne after the Harambee Stars’ opening defeat, but there haven’t been too many central defenders at the Nations Cup who have been more imposing in the air.

    Okumu will have learned a lot from this experience and will come back stronger as a result. 

  3. Diadie Samassekou

    Diadie Samassekou

    The Red Bull Salzburg midfielder has been increasingly linked with a move to Olympique de Marseille in recent weeks, and based on his performances in Egypt, it’s easy to see why he’s courting interest from one of Europe’s biggest clubs.

    No one at the tournament has read the game more effectively than Samassekou, who underpinned Mali’s fine draw with Tunisia with a series of fine interventions in the heart of the park.

    His tackling qualities have been evident too—he’s averaged 3.5 per match—while weighing in with a goal against the Carthage Eagles and an assist in the 4-1 victory over Mauritania.

  4. Faruku Miya

    Faruku Miya

    The Uganda No. 10 already demonstrated his qualities at the last Nations Cup, but on this occasion, has been able to play a key role as Uganda have escaped from the group stage.

    Still only 21, he was influential—weighing in with both assists—as the Cranes defeated the Democratic Republic of Congo in their opener, and he could have had a goal himself if he’d demonstrated a little more composure in the final third.

    He’s averaged three chances created per match so far this competition, and there aren’t too many players who have carried the ball more effectively than Miya.



  5. Joslin Kamatuka

    Joslin Kamatuka

    Things might have been different for Namibia had Kamatuka been given more playing time under Ricardo Mannetti.

    He finally got his opportunity to start in the final game, against the Ivory Coast, after being picked ahead of Egypt-based forward Benson Shilongo, and responded with the southern Africans’ only goal in the competition.

    In truth, Kamatuka could have had a few more if he’d shown a bit more poise while bearing down on Sylvain Gbohouo’s goal, while his direct dribbling with the ball caused regular problems for the Ivorian backline.