19 January 2013

Nigeria: Players Tipped to Shine At the Nations Cup

In every major international tournament, stars are made. While some enhance their reputations and etch themselves into the history books others fall in rating. As the Nations Cup kicks off today, a host of footballers are waiting on the sidelines to make history for themselves and country.

Last year, Zambia against all odds won the Nations Cup and will be looking to defend the crown in South Africa. We look at some of the players that will star and may steal the show in this tournament.

Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba is regarded as one of the greatest players to ever come from Africa. Last season he finally won the coveted Champions League for Chelsea scoring the decisive penalty. In club football, Drogba has won all there is to win but success at the international stage has eluded him. At 34, time is no longer on his side. He has led Cote d'Ivoire to two Nations Cup finals where they lost and he is hoping this one-his final; ends in joy for him.

Cote d'Ivoire has arguably the best squad heading to this tournament with the likes of current African footballer of the Year Yaya Toure and also Gervinho of Arsenal. The Ivory Coast golden generation has one last shot at Nations Cup glory and if Drogba can lead his side to win this edition, he will be regarded as the best player ever in the history of Ivorian football.

John Mikel Obi

At the Under 20 World Cup in 2005 in Holland, Mikel finished runner up to Lionel Messi as the best player in the tournament and English giants Manchester United and Chelsea engaged in a fight for his signature. He eventually signed for Chelsea. He was seen as the next big thing in Nigerian football.

Eight years later, Mikel is yet to fulfill his potential while Lionel Messi has gone on to win the Ballon'dor four times. Mikel has not even finish among the top three in the African Player of the year awards. Last year Nigeria failed to qualify for the Nations Cup for the first time in 25 years and made it to this edition.

Mikel has finally come of age and it is expected he shoulders the responsibility of making the Eagles a force to be reckoned with. He will definitely be saddled with the responsibility of running the Eagles midfield and it remains to be seen if he can finally step up and produce the goods for the Eagles and win Nigeria its third Nations Cup.

Emmanuel Adebayor

The Togolese striker made a late decision to play for his national team after refusing to play for the side citing some reasons. Last year, prior to the Nations Cup, the Togolese bus was attacked in which the lost some members and Togo pulled out of the tournament. Adebayor retired from the National team but he was persuaded to come back to the team.

Adebayor's return to is a big boost for the side as he is arguably the best player the nation has ever produced and his presence is now a welcome development for the team and the competition in general. He was injured at the beginning of the season and lost his place in Tottenham's first 11 to Jermain Defoe and since his return from injury he has been finding it hard to get back to the team. Togo will be hoping he picks his goal scoring form to lead his side

Asamoah Gyang

Asamoah Gyang has divided opinions in his country Ghana. He is loved and hated at the same time. He was the star for Ghana in the last World Cup in South Africa where the Ghanaians reached the quarter finals where he was also the villain for the team missing the crucial penalty that would have earned Ghana and Africa its first ever semi final spot.

Also after retiring from the national team last year after series of criticism by some fans, he made a return back to the national team fold. With the absence of Andre Ayew, he is set to shoulder most of the goal scoring burden. He has been made the captain but he said he will no longer take penalties for his side as a vow he made to his mother since missing two crucial penalties for Ghana.

In the last two tournaments despite being one of the favourites, Ghana underachieved. Ghana is the most successful side in the tournament as Cameroon and Egypt are not in the tournament. For Ghana to add to their four Nations Cup titles, they need Gyang to be firing from all cylinders.

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