JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Africa is waiting to anoint a new goal king at the Nations Cup to succeed Didier Drogba, likely to be playing in his last tournament, and Samuel Eto’o who misses out again.
The list of potential successors at this month’s finals in South Africa is thin but there is always hope that at least one future goal machine could emerge from among the 16 finalists.
Drogba, with 56 goals in 89 games for Ivory Coast, has been virtually unstoppable at international level while Eto’o holds the record for most goals at the tournament – 18 at six finals.
However, Eto’o's hopes of extending that have been halted by Cameroon’s failure to qualify for the last two editions.
While a path is clearing for pretenders to emerge, there has been a dearth of striking talent from Africa in the last few years.
The top scorers at the last Nations Cup managed just three goals – and there were seven of them.
Drogba, Zambia pair Chris Katongo and Emmanuel Mayuka, Cheick Tidiane Diabate of Mali and Angola’s Manucho return for the 2013 finals, which kick off in Johannesburg on Saturday.
But it is more likely that a new scoring sensation could emerge from near obscurity.
Ivory Coast’s Wilfried Bony has been dubbed the ‘next Drogba’ and, if preferred in the starting line-up in South Africa to struggling pair Salomon Kalou or Gervinho, could go on to make good on his promise at club level.
Sixteen goals in 18 games for Vitesse Arnhem this season makes him the top scorer in the Dutch league, the only African to head the scoring charts in a major league.
Lancina Traore has been restored to the Ivory Coast squad after a run of nine goals for Anzhi Makhachkala in the Russian league, one more than Nigeria’s big hope Ahmed Musa, who has eight for CSKA Moscow.
Musa first made an impact in the Dutch league too.
Manucho, briefly on Manchester United’s books, has six goals for Spain’s Real Valladolid, including a pair last month against Real Madrid, but has often failed to fulfil his potential.
Holders Zambia hope a return from injury for Jacob Mulenga will provide them with a prolific target man, while hosts South Africa are relying on Katlego Mphela, top scorer in domestic competition over the last three seasons but just back from a six month lay-off following knee surgery.
The best bet to step up is a player proven at club level already. Tottenham Hotspur’s Emmanuel Adebayor has often been in the shadow of Drogba and Eto’o but, just when opportunity knocks, he has been embroiled in off-field turmoil which leaves little scope for him or his Togo team to make an impact.
(Editing by Alastair Himmer)
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