From Aurier to Slimani: Top 5 African players at the World Cup

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Pele predicted an African team would win the World Cup by the year 2000 but while that may have failed to come to pass, the Selecao legend could yet live to see a winner from the world’s second biggest continent.

Algeria and Nigeria exited the tournament at the second round stage, but after valiant fights against the big boys of Germany and France respectively, they could come again in four years time.

The Fennec Foxes are 1000/1 to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia with the Super Eagles available at 500/1 – big odds but as each-way picks they could yet surprise.

With players from Algeria and Nigeria impressing along with one or two from Ivory Coast (the less said about Cameroon the better) here are five of our favourite African players from the World Cup.

 

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Islam Slimani – Algeria

The scorer of Algeria’s crucial equaliser against Russia, Slimani put in a series of star performances for the Fennec Foxes at this World Cup, including a goal and an assist in the North African’s 4-2 victory over Korea Republic – a game notable for being the first in which an African side has scored four goals in a single World Cup fixture.

Already a star at Porto, Slimani’s similarly impressive showing against Germany could convince the likes of Newcastle United and West Ham to take a look at the 26-year-old this summer.

 

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Ahmed Musa – Nigeria

Long-heralded as one of the brightest young stars in the Nigeria international setup, Musa enjoyed a solid World Cup for the Super Eagles, playing an important role in the crucial 1-0 win over group rivals Bosnia-Herzegovina which all but sealed qualification for the second round.

His true crowning moment came against Argentina though, with the CSKA Moscow man scoring two excellent goals to set another record as the first Nigerian to net twice in a game at the finals.

 

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Serge Aurier – Ivory Coast 

The nearly men of African football fluffed their lines on the world stage yet again after conceding a late penalty to Greece but one man who can head home from the World Cup with his head held high is Arsenal target Serge Aurier.

A consistent performer for the Elephants, the muscle-bound right-back’s finest hour came in the group opener against Japan with two excellent assists that helped Ivory Coast turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory.

 

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Asamoah Gyan – Ghana

While it’s unlikely that the former Sunderland man will ever be able to fully shake off the ghost of that penalty miss from four years ago, he can still go away from the World Cup with his head held high, having lead the line superbly for the Black Stars in each of their three group games.

Picked just ahead of the similarly impressive Andre Ayew, Gyan gets the nod after fine goals against Germany and Portugal, as well as an excellent assist against the US. Those two strikes mean he is the first African star to have scored at three different World Cups and with the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy bemoaning the striker’s decision to play for Al Ain despite his obvious world-class status, a move could yet materialise.

 

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Yacine Brahimi – Algeria

While Slimani provided the killer touch in from of goal, Yacine Brahimi was Algeria’s creative force in midfield, having previously impressed in La Liga with Spanish minnows Granada.

Scorer of the crucial fourth goal against South Korea, which helped ease any worries of a potential comeback, Brahimi is also effective from dead ball situations, setting up Slimani’s goal against Russia with a well-executed cross from a free-kick. Already linked with moves to Tottenham and Everton, a Premier League switch could be in store.

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Jack Beresford

Jack Beresford is a content writer with over five years of experience in writing about sport and betting, including a two-year spell with Axonn Media. Contributes articles to HereIsTheCity and Lad Bible, while previous credits include Bwin, FTB Pro, Bleacher Report and the QBE rugby. Avid follower of tennis, rugby union, motorsport and football, Jack also writes about poker for Cardspiel.com alongside Guardian journalist Dominic Wells.