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Sports News of Thursday, 28 March 2019


Five players who could still force their way into AFCON reckoning

Samuel Chukwueze: The wonderkid made his Nigeria debut in the 0-0 draw with Uganda in November, winning over some admirers with a bright showing. Chukwueze was dropped for Super Eagles squad ahead of this international break, with the national-team selectors instead preferring the youngster to be employed in U-23 action. However, he had returned to goalscoring form with Villarreal before the window—netting his third La Liga goal of the season, against Levante—and must now prove that he can unseat one of Gernot Rohr’s other widemen.

Kevin-Prince Boateng: As recently as January, Kwesi Appiah insisted that Boateng would be welcomed back to the national side should he issue an official apology for the ‘verbal insults’ he aimed at the coach during the 2014 World Cup. During this recent international break, Appiah again reiterated that he hasn’t entirely closed the door to new players. It would take a significant u-turn from the player, while his form would need to improve dramatically at Barcelona, but he boasts the kind of game-changing quality that the Black Stars cannot ignore.

Joel Matip has been playing an increasingly prominent role in Liverpool's Premier League and Champions League assault in recent weeks, but he looks no closer to ending his international absence. The centre-back hasn’t featured for Cameroon since 2015, but coach Clarence Seedorf has revealed that his team have made several attempts to try to convince the defender to return to the fold. To date, Matip has stayed away, but after missing out on the Afcon success of 2017, could he be tempted to return to the international arena?

Jesse Were: Despite being one of Kenya’s best recognised attacking threats, Were’s hopes of representing the Harambee Stars in their first Nations Cup since 2004 are now in jeopardy. The ZESCO United hitman was unceremoniously—and unexpectedly—axed from the Kenya camp ahead of the team’s 1-0 defeat by Ghana in their final qualifier. Sebastien Migne didn’t hold back in his scathing criticism of the forward, asking why fans were still calling for an attacker who hadn’t scored in 26 international outings. Can ‘nice guy’ Were win over Migne in the coming months?

Abdul Rahman Baba: Another Ghanaian who may return to the squad over the coming months is Baba. Left-back remains an area of concern for the Black Stars—despite a would-be wealth of options—with coach Kwesi Appiah reportedly keen to use midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah in this position. However, if Baba does return to something close to the form he demonstrated before being injured at the Afcon two years ago, he’d be the natural choice to slip back in. Now on loan at Stade de Reims, can he prove his fitness—and form—between now and the season’s end?