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AFCON 2023: Five Players To Watch Out For

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The Africa Cup of Nations gets underway on January 13, in the biennial battle to be crowned African football’s finest team.

After the rescheduling of the tournament from last summer, Africa’s top teams are preparing to compete for continental success in what promises to be a fascinating month of international action.

Ahead of AFCON 2023, we’ve picked out five players to keep an eye on in the Ivory Coast.

Ousmane Diomande (Ivory Coast)

Ivory Coast are the host nation for the tournament as Les Éléphants look to win a second AFCON title.

The Ivorians boast a squad mixed with experience and potential, with the brightest prospect among their ranks Ousmane Diomande. The centre-back has starred since signing for Sporting Lisbon from FC Midtjylland last January, emerging as one of the most promising defenders in European football.

Diomande ranks second in Portugal’s Primeria Liga this season for touches (1165) and pass completion (91%), while ranking third for passes into the final third (94), percentage of dribblers tackled (83.3%) and progressive carrying distance (2342).

Sporting set a release clause of €80m (£69m) in the 20-year-old’s contract when signing Diomande, a figure top clubs are reportedly already prepared to meet. He will form a strong axis at centre-back alongside Roma’s Evan Ndicka for the host nation.

Serhou Guirassy (Guinea)

Serhou Guirassy’s suitors will be keeping a close eye on developments in the Ivory Coast this month, with the Guinea international one of the most in-demand players in world football.

A stunning start to the season (and modest release clause) has seen the Stuttgart striker catapult himself onto the transfer wish-list of leading clubs across Europe. Guirassy’s goals have fired Stuttgart into Champions League contention after two seasons battling relegation, with only Harry Kane and Kylian Mbappe having outscored the 27-year-old across Europe’s top five leagues.

The forward represented France up to u-20 level before declaring for the country of his parents. He has scored three goals for Guinea since his debut in 2022.

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Victor Boniface (Nigeria)

Nigeria’s mixed form has seen the Super Eagles placed as outsiders, despite boasting the most formidable frontline in the tournament.

Victor Osimhen is the star striker in José Peseiro’s plans and was the leading scorer in AFCON qualification, with 10 goals. The Napoli striker is already fourth among his country’s all-time leading scorers, with 20 goals from just 27 appearances.

However, Osimhen won’t be the only threat for the Nigerians, following the emergence of Victor Boniface this season. Signed from Union Saint-Gilloise in the summer, the 23-year-old has been an instant hit at Bayer Leverkusen. Boniface has scored 16 goals and laid on eight assists in 23 appearances in all competitions, for a Leverkusen team unbeaten at the turn of the new year.

Since signing for Leverkusen, Boniface ranks in the top five percent of strikers in Europe’s top five leagues for non-penalty xG, shots, assists, progressive carries, successful take-ons and attacking penalty area touches per 90 minutes.

Mohamed Amoura (Algeria)

Union Saint-Gilloise have helped nurtue some brilliant talent in recent seasons with the aforementioned Boniface and Brighton winger Kaoru Mitoma among the names to have been nurtured at the Belgian side.

Algerian forward Mohamed Amoura could be the latest to make Europe’s big leagues take note, following a stunning start to his career with the club. The 23-year-old, who was Algeria’s leading scorer in qualification for AFCON 2023 with three goals, arrived in Belgium with a modest goal record but has exploded during the current season.

Amoura has averaged a goal every 66 minutes in the Jupiler Pro League, having netted 13 times in just nine starts this season. The diminutive forward can operate across the frontline and will hope to link up with Riyad Mahrez in the final third.

Bilal El Khannouss (Morocco)

Europe’s leading clubs have checked in on the progress of Bilal El Khannouss this season, with the midfielder dubbed one of Morocco’s biggest talents of recent years.

The Atlas Lions boast arguably the strongest squad in the tournament after becoming the first African nation to reach the World Cup semi-finals in Qatar last winter, and El Khannouss has added to the quality in their ranks.

The 19-year-old was voted as the best u-23 player in the Belgian Pro League last season, and has forged a reputation as forward-thinking midfield talent.

Among all players in the 14 leading leagues outside of Europe’s top five divisions, the teenager ranks in the 97th percentile for progressive passes per game (8.73) and ranks highly among his positional peers for attempted passes (95th percentile), tackles (88th percentile) and shot-creating actions (88th percentile).

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Bilal El Khannouss is a gem among a Morocco midfield that will start as tournament favourites.

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BREAKING: Multiple people shot at Super Bowl parade in Kansas City

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In a shocking turn of events, a shooting occurred at the parade celebrating the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl championship, leaving multiple people injured. Reports indicate that shots were fired near Union Station, where the celebration was taking place, shortly after the festivities concluded.

Eyewitnesses described scenes of chaos as fans in red Chiefs gear scattered in response to the gunfire. Emergency responders swiftly arrived at the scene, with ambulances seen with flashing lights and at least one person spotted on a stretcher.

The shooting cast a shadow over what was meant to be a joyous occasion, with thousands of fans gathered to celebrate their team’s historic victory. Union Station, which had been bustling with excitement just moments before, became the center of a police investigation as authorities worked to secure the area and tend to the injured.

Despite the heightened security measures in place due to the large crowds expected for the parade, the incident unfolded rapidly, catching many by surprise. Police officers rushed to the scene, and two armed individuals were reportedly detained, although details surrounding their involvement remain unclear.

As the investigation into the shooting continues, questions arise about the safety measures in place at public events of this magnitude. The Super Bowl parade, a momentous occasion for Kansas City and its football fans, was marred by this tragic turn of events.

Authorities are urging anyone with information about the shooting to come forward as they work to piece together the sequence of events and identify those responsible. The incident serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of vigilance and security at public gatherings, even during times of celebration.

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The community’s thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the shooting and their families as they navigate this difficult time. As details emerge, the city of Kansas City rallies together in support of those affected by this senseless act of violence.

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Meek Mill Endorses Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl Ad Against Antisemitism

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Meek Mill has thrown his support behind Robert Kraft’s latest Super Bowl ad, which features Civil Rights-era veterans speaking out against antisemitism.

The ad, organized by Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism (FCAS), marks the organization’s debut Super Bowl commercial and stars Dr. Clarence B. Jones, a key figure in the Civil Rights movement who served as a speechwriter and legal counsel for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Jones, who played a pivotal role in drafting Dr. King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech delivered at the March on Washington in 1963, is featured prominently in the ad. Meek Mill recently shared a post about a phone call between Kraft and Dr. Jones, hinting at the upcoming ad.

Last year, Meek Mill expressed his solidarity with Robert Kraft after the New England Patriots owner pledged $25 million towards combating discrimination through the “Stand Up To Jewish Hate” campaign, initiated by the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism.

Kraft’s campaign aims to raise awareness about the rising incidents of antisemitism, both online and offline, across the country. Meek Mill showed his support for Kraft and the initiative on Twitter, lauding the philanthropist with diamond emojis and a shoutout.

According to PEOPLE, Meek Mill and former Patriots star Tom Brady will leverage their platforms to promote the campaign. This collaboration is not the first between Meek Mill and Kraft, as they previously worked together, alongside JAY-Z and Michael Rubin, on the criminal justice reform organization, REFORM Alliance.

In a gesture of appreciation, Meek Mill and JAY-Z gifted Kraft a blue drop-top Bentley for his 80th birthday, accompanied by a heartfelt birthday card praising Kraft’s youthful energy and impactful work. Kraft had also visited Meek Mill in prison in 2018, acknowledging the rapper’s intelligence and advocating for criminal justice reform.

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The relationship between Meek Mill and Robert Kraft underscores their shared commitment to social justice causes, extending beyond the realms of music and sports.

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Megan Thee Stallion Teases Nike Collaboration with Bold Workout Video

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Megan Thee Stallion is offering fans a glimpse into her highly anticipated collaboration with Nike, sharing her vision for the collection in a lively social media post.

On Wednesday (February 7), the Houston Hottie treated followers to a workout video featuring a fast-paced voiceover outlining her plans for the crossover.

“I went to they goddamn headquarters and I said, ‘Nike, first of all, we need some sports bras for the big-titty bitches, we need some shit that’s going to make the long-leg girls look poppin,’” she asserted, as footage previewed a sleek bodysuit from her upcoming collection. “We need to turn these goddamn ponies into goddamn stallions.”

Megan continued, “Bitch, it ain’t only bodysuits in the collection; we got everything — we got shorts, we got bras, we got goddamn crop tops.”

The 28-year-old rapper appears poised to join Nike’s exclusive roster of non-athletes, and her electrifying New Year’s Eve concert only heightened anticipation for the forthcoming line.

During her performance at Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, Megan showcased a series of fan-favorite hits, including her recent track “Cobra,” while donning all purple attire to signify her partnership with Planet Fitness. She subtly teased her collaboration with Nike by sporting the iconic Nike Swoosh below her collarbone.

Taking to Instagram the following morning, Megan shared snapshots of her outfit and a clip from the concert, captioning the post, “@nike Stay tuned for the drop, Hotties! #NikeByYou. Year of the Stallion.”

According to reports from KicksFinder last year, the “Sportswear Apparel Collection” is slated to launch on February 15, featuring items such as the “Bodysuit LS, NSW Jacket, Onesies 5 In, Bra/Bra Plus, Pro Short 5 In/In Plus, Slim Crop/Crop Tee Plus.”

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Nigeria beat South Africa on penalties to reach AFCON Final

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Nigeria reached an eighth Africa Cup of Nations final after winning a drama-fuelled last-four clash with South Africa on penalties.

Goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali was the hero for Nigeria after he saved efforts by Teboho Mokoena and Evidence Makgopa in a 4-2 shoot-out win, which only told half the story of an extraordinary clash where VAR was at the forefront of the action.

Nigeria thought they had booked their place in the final when Victor Osimhen tapped home in the 85th minute to add to William Troost-Ekong’s second-half penalty, but referee Amin Omar was told to intervene.

A review of the goal showed South Africa’s Percy Tau had been fouled inside the penalty area at the start of the move and the score went from 2-0 to Nigeria to 1-1 when Mokoena made no mistake from 12 yards.

The Napoli forward was able to carry on but a quiet opening period occurred.

South Africa had spent the majority of the first quarter of an hour on the back foot but had penalty appeals waved away with 27 minutes played when Khuliso Mudau’s cross hit the elbow of Fulham defender Calvin Bassey, but his arms were tucked into his body.

It was South Africa firmly in the ascendancy now with Tau squandering a promising position with a weak shot straight at Nwabali before he almost got in again minutes later but his touch was too heavy.

Nigeria had struggled to create chances after a bright start, but Osimhen provided a reminder of his threat when he headed wide from a corner at the end of the first half.

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The Nigeria talisman played a decisive role in the opener when he turned away from Aubrey Modiba with a wonderful pirouette, burst into the area and was brought down by Mothobi Mvala.

It was Troost-Ekong who stepped up for the spot-kick duties and his low effort went under the body of South Africa’s last-eight penalty shoot-out hero Ronwen Williams to break the deadlock with 67 minutes gone.

South Africa immediately pushed for a leveller and Makgopa flashed an effort wide before a dramatic finale to normal time occurred.

First, Williams dived at the feet of Ademola Lookman, who had been played through on goal, but Nigeria were able to celebrate in the 85th minute when Osimhen tapped home at the back post.

The Super Eagles’ jubilation would quickly turn to disbelief when referee Omar was told to review the goal by VAR.

Omar was shown a replay at the start of the move of Nigeria substitute Alhassan Yusuf catching Tau inside the area, which resulted in the goal being disallowed and South Africa awarded a penalty.

Amid the pandemonium, Mokoena kept his cool from the spot with 90 minutes on the clock, but it could have been even better for South Africa after Khuliso Mudau fired over with only Williams to beat in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

Nigeria impressively regrouped with Lookman testing Williams before a snapshot by Osimhen was also well saved.

Osimhen headed over soon after before Nigeria boss Jose Peseiro decided to replace him with Terem Moffi, whose first involvement resulted in Kekana being sent off.

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VAR was again required with referee Omar eventually deciding Kekana had fouled Moffi, but the contact was just outside the area.

It ensured penalties were required where Nwabali stole the show before Kelechi Iheanacho rolled home to send Nigeria through to another final.

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