AFCON semifinals are set to take place over the next couple of days. African heavyweights Egypt, Cameroon, Senegal and Burkina Faso will be vying for a spot in the final, which is to be held on Sunday night at the Olembe Stadium in Cameroon.
AFCON 2021 has had its fair share of surprises
There has been no shortage of surprises at AFCON this time around. African powerhouses Algeria and Ghana crashed out of the continental tournament in the group stages. Ivory Coast and Mali were sent packing in the Round of 16. Morocco and Tunisia had their journeys cut short in the quarter-finals.
We already have several standout performers at AFCON. Most of the big names have been able to deliver on the big stage.
Without further ado, let's take a look at five of the best players in AFCON so far.
#5 Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
He started off with an uncharacteristically quiet display in Egypt's 1-0 loss against Nigeria. Salah quickly bounced back quickly and was the best player for the Pharaohs in their next game against Guinea-Bissau and scored the winning goal.
After two decent outings against Sudan and Ivory Coast, Salah truly brought his matchwinning abilities to the fore as Egypt went up against Morocco. The 29 year old scored a goal and provided the assist for Trezeguet's extra-time winner as Egypt got the better of African heavyweight Morocco.
#4 Sadio Mane (Senegal)
Sadio Mane got off to a great start at AFCON 2021. He was arguably the best player on the pitch as Senegal dominated Zimbabwe in their first game. However, it took them a last-gasp penalty to put one over on their opponents with Mane doing the honors from the spot in second-half stoppage time.
The Liverpool winger had two very quiet outings following the game against Zimbabwe. He was lackluster as Senegal settled for goalless draws against Guinea and Malawi. But Mane sprung back to life in the knockout stages.
Mane was a lively presence in the Round of 16 against Cape Verde. He worked hard and scored the opening goal of the game as Senegal won 2-0. Mane was once again the pick of the players as Senegal beat Equatorial Guinea 3-1 in the quarter-finals.
#3 Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)
Achraf Hakimi was one of the most consistent players of AFCON 2021 until Morocco were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Egypt. The Paris Saint-Germain right back turned in impressive performances in games against Comoros and Gabon, scoring an all-important 84th equalizer in the latter.
He tapped into that same vein for Morocco's Round of 16 match against Malawi. Hakimi scored the winner in the 70th minute as Morocco came from 1-0 behind to win the game 2-1. The 23 year old gave a good account of himself in the quarter-finals against Egypt.
He won an early penalty in the game which was converted by Soufiane Boufal to give Morocco a 1-0 lead. However, Hakimi was guilty of losing Trezeguet at the backpost for the goal that decided the game.
#2 Karl Toko Ekambi (Cameroon)
Cameroon have been the high-flyers of this edition of AFCON. Cameroon's forwards have been on fire and have lit up the tournament with their efficiency in front of goal and the sheer sense of adventure they've shown.
Karl Toko Ekambi should have got himself a hat-trick in Cameroon's second group stage game against Ethiopia. He had five shots on goal and bagged a brace for his efforts. After a rather quiet outing in their 1-1 draw against Cape Verde in their last group stage game, Ekambi shone in the knockout stages.
He scored the opener for Cameroon in their 2-1 win over Comoros. The Olympique Lyon forward bagged another brace as Cameroon beat Gambia 2-0 in the quarter-finals.
#1 Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon)
Cameroon striker Vincent Aboubakar was easily the best performing player from the group stages. He scored a whopping five goals in three games, including braces in their first two games against Burkina Faso and Ethiopia.
He followed it up by scoring Cameroon's lone goal in their 1-1 draw against Cape Verde. The 30 year old is a technically gifted marksman who knows his way around the final third and is pretty good at linking up with his teamamtes as well.
He was involved in both goals in Cameroon's 2-1 win over Comoros in the Round of 16, scoring one and providing the assist for the other. Despite not getting on the scoresheet in Cameroon's 2-0 win over Gambia in the quarter-finals, Aboubakar still produced an impressive performance.