Goal takes a look at the African team captains, the men who will play instrumental roles at their national teams as they do battle in Russia. Of these five men, who will return home making history for the continent?
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#1 Egypt: Essam El-HadaryAt 45, the goalkeeper of Saudi side Al-Taawoun is set to become the oldest player ever to feature in a World Cup. Former Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon holds that record after appearing at the last edition in Brazil, aged 43. Interestingly, El-Hadary made his Egypt debut in March 1996, 10 months before his teammate in Russia, Ramadan Sobhi was born. Now the third most capped Egyptian at 158 internationals, El-Hadary arrived in Russia with a wealth of experience and leads The Pharaohs to their third World Cup appearance. Despite tremendous success on the African continent where he has won four Africa Cup of Nations and as many Caf Champions League titles, El-Hadary has never played in a World Cup before. He remains one of the best goalkeepers ever to emerge from Africa.
#2 Nigeria: John Obi MikelThe 31-year-old former Chelsea midfielder will be the only African captain in Russia to have played in a World Cup before, having featured at the last edition in Brazil. This was after he suffered the agony of missing the 2010 tournament due to injury. This is his 13th year with the Super Eagles and it is to no surprise why he will wear the armband in Russia. Capped 85 times by Nigeria, Mikel will be shouldering the responsibility of leading a much-esteemed footballing nation in Africa, who will be making a sixth World Cup appearance on the backdrop of thrice failing to get past the last-16 hurdle. Getting past Argentina, Croatia and an improving Iceland from Group D poses a great challenge to Mikel’s leadership.
#3 Senegal: Cheikhou KouyateHis coach Aliou Cisse was the captain when Senegal debuted at the World Cup in 2002. Now 28-year-old Kouyate will boast about being the second player to skipper the Teranga Lions at the global football showpiece. Senegal's Class of 2002 captured the world’s attention by stunning holders France before storming into the quarter-finals. Now West Ham midfielder Kouyate is pressed to lead his Teranga Lions pride to a better outing. With 41 international caps, Kouyate's task does not seem to be a mammoth one as Senegal face Poland, Colombia and Japan in Group H.
#4 Morocco: Medhi BenatiaThe 31-year-old Juventus centre back has been with the national team for a decade now and that underlines why he was chosen to skipper Morocco in Russia. Having turned out for Bayern Munich and Roma before, he is arguably the most experienced Carthage Eagle at the moment. The 56-cap international leads Morocco whose best showing at the World Cup is the 1986 last-16 appearance. Will he inspire Morocco to navigate past Group B that has 2010 champions Spain, Portugal and Iran?
#5 Tunisia: Aymen MathlouthiThe 33-year-old veteran goalkeeper has spent most of his career playing in his homeland until in January this year when he signed for Saudi side Al-Batin. He will be out to become the first ever skipper to lead Tunisia out of the World Cup group stages after the North Africans failed to do so on four previous occasions. England, Belgium and Panama stand in their way in Group G. He has guarded goal for Tunisia 70 times since 2007 so his experience is undoubted even though this is his maiden Fifa World Cup tournament.