The Ivorian attack can give anyone a run for their money at AFCON 2019

Maxwel Cornet of Olympique Lyonnais celebrates as he scores his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Olympique Lyonnais and Manchester City at Groupama Stadium on November 27, 2018 in Lyon, France.  (Nov. 26, 2018 - Source: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe)

Maxwel Cornet of Olympique Lyonnais celebrates as he scores his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Olympique Lyonnais and Manchester City at Groupama Stadium on November 27, 2018 in Lyon, France.

(Nov. 26, 2018 - Source: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe)

The 32nd edition of the Total Africa Cup of Nations is now just a few months away and it wouldn’t be premature for the battling nations to start oiling their machines nor is too early to start talking about it. Before the Egypt, June finals there are still some elusive AFCON spots up for grabs as the qualifiers come to a conclusion in March 2019. Of major interest to us right now, is the potential Ivorian forward line. It’s just something to behold.

The Elephants of Ivory Coast have already confirmed their place among the June 2019 finalists after an impressive qualifying campaign that have them lying second in Group H, three points behind Guinea. Of course the two-time AFCON champions have quality players in every position in their squad with the likes of Manchester United’s Eric Bailly, Tottenham’s Serge Aurier, Franck Kessie of AC Milan, Jean Seri of Premier League’s Fulham among many others. Quite notably, is their front line, thronged with individuals who have been grabbing headlines everywhere.

Wilfried Zaha

Mr. Crystal Palace needs no introduction. Zaha has overtime become the Premier League side’s most important player and the dread of any defender in the English top flight. The 26-year-old has since scored 25 goals and assisted 16 others from wide positions ever since joining the Selhurst park residents in the 2014/15 season, helping them stay alive in the Premier League. He actually became the record-scorer for Palace in the English top flight league when he banged his 24th goal for the club against Watford back in 2018. Endowed with great lower and upper body strength, quick feet and sizzling dribbles; Zaha is unplayable on his day. No wonder, Liverpool and English international, Trent Alexander Arnold, labelled him, the most difficult opponent, ahead of even Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

On the day, I’d say Zaha was the hardest. Just his athleticism. You can’t get the ball off him, hard to tackle, fast, skilful, can score goals, set them up, a match-winner. With Neymar and Ronaldo, you can see they are very intelligent players, people who know their trade, different movements, but they never got much of the ball against us. Obviously Zaha is not at a level of Ronaldo and Neymar, but for me on the day Zaha was probably the hardest.
— Trent-Alexander Anorld, Liverpool and England Defender

He has even been a subject of big money transfers rumors to the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham before penning a new deal with Crystal Palace in 2018. With only 2 international goals to his name since switching allegiance from England to Ivory Coast, you can be assured that Zaha will be hungry whenever he puts on that orange Elephants shirt.

Nicolas Pepe of the Ivory Coast controls the ball during the International Friendly match between the Ivory Coast and Senegal at the Stade Charlety on March 27, 2017 in Paris, France.  (March 26, 2017 - Source: Dan Mullan/Getty Images Europe)

Nicolas Pepe of the Ivory Coast controls the ball during the International Friendly match between the Ivory Coast and Senegal at the Stade Charlety on March 27, 2017 in Paris, France.

(March 26, 2017 - Source: Dan Mullan/Getty Images Europe)

Nicolas Pepe

The 23-year-old is my personal favorite. The Lille forward is one of the hottest names around in world of football today. He has become the French Ligue 1 side’s wildcard in their unlikely Champions League qualification spot pursuit. Pepe has already scored 13 league goals and assisted 7 others so far in the 2018/19 season for LOSC Lille. He is actually just one goal shy of top scorer, PSG’s Kylian Mbappe and very much in the race for the league’s award to the most prolific player. Pepe also boasts of the highest tally of 52 shots with 33 of them hitting the target. Even in the January transfer window, his name has carried a price tag as high as €100 million with the likes of Arsenal rumored to have been interested in the winger. As Ghanaians would say, Nicolas will surely “score you and put pepe(chilli) in your eyes”.


Maxwell Cornet

This particular one is less popular but just as lethal. The 22-year-old used  2018 to cement his position in the young Lyon team that has been devastating and with an equally entertaining style of play. Cornet made major headlines after banging a crucial goal that helped Lyon upset Manchester City, 2-1 at the Etihad on matchday 1 of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League group stage. As luck would have it, his two other goals in the European competition came at home in the return leg against City, helping Lyon secure an important 2-2 draw. Cornet is that physically built wide man who is able to cut inside, score both from close and long range and more similar to Zaha than he is different.

Now, being individually brilliant is one thing and jellying together as a unit is an entirely different story. These three actually have attributes that make them naturally intertwined and an infallible force when they play together. Zaha and Cornet on either wing and Pepe leading the frontline, its need for speed and goals galore regardless of who they play. The real question is will Ibrahima Kamara play them together? Would you?