AFCON 2023: Leading Golden Boot candidates

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AFCON 2023: Who are the leading candidates to claim the Golden Boot?

Salah and Mane are likely to be battling it out to be top scorer
Salah and Mane are likely to be battling it out to be top scorerProfimedia
During the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), 100 goals were scored in 52 games. It wasn’t a tournament you will remember for goals as the 1.92 goals per game was the lowest ever witnessed since the 2002 edition.

Out of the 100 goals in Cameroon last time out, three of them were own goals. Vincent Aboubakar had a tournament to remember, displaying one of the best individual performances AFCON has ever seen.

His tally of eight goals at the finals saw him equal Laurent Pokou’s feat at the 1970 AFCON with Ivory Coast but fell only one short of Zaire’s Ndaye Mulamba’s record of nine goals in the 1974 edition.

It’s time for a new king to be crowned as the stars gather in Ivory Coast for the 2023 AFCON, but who will win the Golden Boot?

Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

Salah will be looking to lead Egypt to glory
Salah will be looking to lead Egypt to gloryReuters

Egypt is Mohamed Salah’s team. He is the centrepiece and everything usually goes through him on the pitch. This isn’t a surprise because when you have one of the best finishers in world football, you play to his strengths.

The seven-time AFCON winners narrowly missed out on the trophy in 2021 after losing to Senegal on penalties. Though the North African side reached the final, their cautious approach only meant that Salah scored two goals at the tournament – which was 50% of Egypt’s tally.

As a result, Egypt has a new coach in Rui Vitoria, who is heading into the tournament as one of the highest-paid coaches. Under Vitoria, Egypt have scored 33 goals in 14 matches and are far more fluid in attack.

The Liverpool forward has scored nine goals in 985 minutes under the Portuguese coach. This season, the 31-year-old has 18 goals in all competitions for Liverpool.

Victor Osimhen (Nigeria)

Osimhen was named African Player of the Year
Osimhen was named African Player of the YearReuters

Victor Osimhen comes into this tournament with a huge reputation. He is the reigning CAF Men’s Player of the Year and also finished eighth in the 2023 Ballon d’Or rankings.

The Nigerian missed the last edition of the AFCON due to injury and COVID-19 and will be eager to feature in Ivory Coast. The Napoli man has already shown what he’s capable of, finishing the 2023 AFCON qualifiers as top scorer with 10 goals.

Osimhen is a goal-hungry type of striker; a fox in the box who is always waiting to pounce or feed off scraps. He just needs a sniff at goal to make the net ripple. He comes into the tournament with an incredible record for the Super Eagles, scoring a goal every 102.6 minutes.

The 25-year-old seems to have put the disappointment of missing the last AFCON behind him and is the fifth-highest scorer in Europe’s top five leagues with 42 goals since February 2021. 

Youssef En-Nesyri (Morocco)

En-Nesyri is a huge threat aerially
En-Nesyri is a huge threat aeriallyProfimedia

If put in a decent cross, chances are that Youssef En-Nesyri will nod it home. Very few in world football are better at heading a ball than the Moroccan striker. His goal against Portugal which sent Morocco to the 2022 World Cup semi-finals is a testament to his aerial ability.

Walid Regragui was the mastermind behind Morocco becoming the first African country to reach the last four of the World Cup. Now he will be tasked with replicating such form on the continent to win the AFCON – something Morocco haven't done since 1976.

It’s been almost half a century since the Atlas Lions were crowned champions and if they are to do it again in Ivory Coast, En-Nesyri will be crucial. The Sevilla striker has nine goals in all competitions this season despite the struggles of the La Liga club.

The former Malaga striker scored a couple of goals during the qualifiers and has 17 in total for Morocco. With the likes of Hakimi, Ziyech, and Boufal to provide width, En-Nesyri could be in the mix of goals.

Sadio Mane (Senegal)

Mane is the leading man of the reigning champions
Mane is the leading man of the reigning championsProfimedia

In the opening group B game of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, Sadio Mane scored a brace and provided an assist to once again highlight his importance to Senegal. He was crucial to Senegal winning their maiden AFCON title, picking up the best player award in the process.

As one of the captains, Mane will play a large majority of games and is also on penalty duty which can be an added advantage. In 2021, Mane scored three goals in the AFCON taking his total tally in the competition to eight. 

At 31 and playing in the Saudi Pro League with Al-Nassr, Mane might not be as sharp as he used to but his goal-scoring instincts are very palpable. This season, the Senegalese man has 12 goals in all competitions for Al-Nassr in 26 games.

Mohammed Kudus (Ghana)

Kudus has been a revelation since signing for West Ham
Kudus has been a revelation since signing for West HamReuters

Mohammed Kudus scores from anywhere and the numbers prove it. This season, he is the second biggest xG (Expected Goals) over-performer in the Premier League; his six goals come from an xG tally of 1.9. This means that per the location of the ball where Kudus shoots from, he is expected to have scored around two goals but he has six to his name.

You can’t rule him out for the Golden Boot because he has a lethal left foot in his armour. In all competitions, he has 10 goals for West Ham making him their second highest scorer behind Jarrod Bowen. In the past year, the 23-year-old has developed into a clinical goal scorer.

Since Kudus made his debut for Ghana in November 2019, no other player has scored more than his tally of nine for the Black Stars. The West Ham player has become a key part of the team and will be eager to impress at the AFCON after missing the last edition due to a rib fracture.

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