Five players to watch in AFCON knockout stages

Iban Salvador Edu leads the celebrations after Equatorial Guinea stunned Algeria

Jim Allevinah has scored twice for a Gabon side deprived of star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Creator: Kenzo Tribouillard

As the Africa Cup of Nations heads into the knockout phase, AFP Sport looks at five stars of the group stage who will be hoping to make an impact in last-16 ties over the coming days:

Gabon's hopes of a successful AFCON appeared torpedoed before the tournament even started as star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and influential midfielder Mario Lemina tested positive for Covid-19 and were then allowed to return to their clubs.

However, the Panthers -- who have never won a knockout tie at the Cup of Nations -- made it through their group by beating the Comoros and then holding more illustrious opponents in Ghana and Morocco.

French coach Patrice Neveu needed attacking inspiration from somewhere without Aubameyang and Allevinah has helped provide that. The 26-year-old, born in France where he is enjoying his debut Ligue 1 season with Clermont, already scored twice for Gabon in World Cup qualifiers against Egypt late last year. 

In Cameroon he came off the bench to score a fabulous late equaliser against Ghana before returning to the starting line-up against Morocco and pouncing on a defensive error to open the scoring in a 2-2 draw.

Gambia are the lowest-ranked team at the tournament but they have made the last 16 in their first ever appearance at the Cup of Nations after taking seven points in a group containing Mali, Tunisia and Mauritania.

Jallow's role in their reaching the knockouts and a tie against Guinea was crucial, as he scored one of the goals of the group stage to beat Mauritania and struck a superb injury-time winner against Tunisia. In between, the same left foot sent a free-kick off the upright in the draw with Mali.

Like most members of the Scorpions' squad, Jallow is based in Europe. The 23-year-old belongs to French club Metz but is currently playing on loan in Belgium.

The 30-year-old is the top scorer at this year's AFCON having netted a remarkable five goals in the first three matches to already equal Odion Ighalo's leading tally at the 2019 Cup of Nations.

Aboubakar netted two penalties as Cameroon beat Burkina Faso in the opening game and followed that with two from open play in a 4-1 win over Ethiopia before striking again in the draw with Cape Verde.

Cameroon's captain, now based in Saudi Arabia after a decade in Europe, was already their match-winner in the 2017 final against Egypt and could be about to fill his boots in the last 16 against a Comoros side set to be without a recognised goalkeeper after being ravaged by Covid-19.

The long-legged midfielder, standing 1.91m tall, has been excellent for the Elephants in wins over Equatorial Guinea and Algeria either side of a draw against Sierra Leone. 

Playing in a midfield three with Jean Michael Seri and AC Milan's Franck Kessie, Sangare showcased his ability to get forward as he set up a goal for Nicolas Pepe against Sierra Leone and headed in his side's second goal in the 3-1 defeat of Algeria.

Aged 24, Sangare is in his second season at PSV Eindhoven but clubs from Europe's biggest leagues will be watching his progress closely.

Equatorial Guinea was once a Spanish colony and a majority of their players were born in Spain. Among them is Iban Edu, unmissable with his hair dyed in the red of his country and with his socks rolled around his ankles.

The wide midfielder was man of the match in the stunning win over Algeria and set up the goal that beat Sierra Leone, sealing a last-16 place and a tie against Mali.

Once at Valencia and now in Spain's second division at Fuenlabrada, the 26-year-old is competing in his second AFCON having featured in the side that reached the semi-finals as hosts in 2015.

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