Top players to watch in 2015 AFCON: Mame Biram Diouf (Senegal)

Mame Diouf (R) of Stoke and Robert Huth of Wrexham jump for a header during their FA Cup third round soccer match at the Britania Stadium in Stoke, central England, January 4, 2015.
Ahram Online
Friday 16 Jan 2015
With Senegal looking forward to restoring their lost pride in this month's AFCON, Stoke City striker Mame Biram Diouf will be one among several forwards to shoulder the responsibility of getting his nation back on track.

Following the demise of the golden generation that helped Senegal claim a historic World Cup last-eight berth and  a Cup of Nations' runner-up finish in 2002, the West Africans haven't looked nearly as intimidating.

Their best achievement came in CAN 2006 in Egypt where they finished fourth, but they were condemned to two first-round exits in the following four editions – failing to initially book a place in the other two tournaments.

And with Senegal appearing to have finally redeemed themselves with a group of highly-rated English Premier League forwards leading their attack, the Lions of Teranga could be en route to restoring their status as African powerhouses.

Diouf, 27, is among those forwards, as are Newcastle's Papiss Cisse and Southampton's Sadio Mane. All three have been crucial in helping Senegal through the CAN qualification phase to finish second behind Tunisia in Group G.

Two goals during a 2-0 home win and another in a 1-0 away victory over seven-time African champions Egypt have been vital for Senegal during the run-up to Equatorial Guinea.

At the club level, Diouf has been in fine form for Stoke as well, scoring a superb winner against English league holders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

With just minutes remaining till the end of stoppage time in the second half, a wonderful solo effort from the pacey striker saw him take on a handful of defenders before slotting home his side's shock winner.

He went on to score four Premier League goals for Stoke, where he has been a regular since the start of the season.  

Another memorable moment was his bicycle kick with Hannover, where he notched a total of 25 Bundesliga goals in a successful two-year spell, in a thrilling 5-4 league defeat to Schalke early in 2013.

Characterised by his pace, height, strength and precise finishing, former Manchester United striker Diouf is tipped to become one of the CAN's deadliest marksmen.

However he will need to showcase his outstanding abilities in Group C, one of the toughest groups in the biennial competition, featuring Algeria, Ghana and South Africa.

Senegal will open their campaign against Ghana on January 19, before taking on South Africa four days later, in their bid for their first-ever Nations Cup title.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)


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