The 2023 AFCON tournament is officially fifteen days away from its official kick-off. The tournament will be hosted in Ivory Coast from January 13th to February 11th.
Soccernet.ng looks into five defenders who can catch the eyes of the viewers and even foreign clubs who are looking to get the strength and rawness from players in African Football.
1. Edmond Tapsoba – Burkina Faso, Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Edmond Tapsoba has been rock solid for Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen this season. With thirteen starts from a possible sixteen, the 24-year-old has been reliable and consistent all season, even proving to be a threat from set-pieces as he scored in Die Werkself’s Europa League win over Molde. Burkina Faso are grouped alongside Mauritania, Angola, and Algeria, and Tapsoba’s performances at the back will be crucial for The Stallions.
2. Calvin Bassey – Nigeria, Fulham
Bassey made his debut for the Super Eagles in 2021 and has matured as a footballer since then. Capable of playing as a central defender or as a full-back, the ex-Rangers player will be one to watch after putting in impressive displays in the English Premier League, forming a strong partnership with Tosin Adarabioyo in Fulham’s backline.
3. Nayef Aguerd – Morocco, West Ham United
Aguerd has been one of the best central defenders in the Premier League this season. With a peach of a left foot that can easily switch play with diagonal long balls, the Moroccan is the embodiment of a ball-playing centre-back. His jaw-dropping displays at the World Cup saw him linked with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, and without a doubt, will be raring to make his mark for the Atlas Lions in Ivory Coast next year.
4. Evan N’dicka – Ivory Coast, AS Roma
Another central defender with incredible composure on the ball. N’dicka won the UEFA Europa League with Oliver Glasner’s Frankfurt, before joining Jose Mourinho’s A.S. Roma. At 24, he made his Ivory Coast debut in September and has featured in all of their games since then. Set to partner Eric Bailly at the back for the hosts, N’dicka will be one to watch as he plays in his first-ever competition for his country.
5. Achraf Hakimi –Morocco, Paris Saint-Germain
A nominee for the African Player of the Year award alongside Victor Osimhen and Mo Salah, Hakimi is one of the best right-backs in the World. The 25-year-old has scored three goals and created another four in just thirteen League outings for Le Parisien this season from the right-back position. Hakimi helped his National side to a semi-final place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and will be hoping to do one better as he heads to Ivory Coast in just a matter of weeks.