7 stars of Matchday 2 – AFCON 2023

7 stars of Matchday 2 – AFCON 2023
Credit: Icon Sport

The 34th edition of Africa's biggest football festival, the AFCON 2023 tournament, has engulfed many with scintillating performances, great goals, shocking results, and a fight to the finish line as it gears towards round 3 of group stage hostilities.

The second round gave us 12 entertaining matches where several players showcased their true potentials and gave their all to defend the colours of their nations.

The brilliant performances after Matchday 2 has taken the goals tally of AFCON 2023 to 65, with the first hattrick and quite a number of doubles scored, showcasing just how this tournament is on course to break and set new records.

At the conclusion of the last group stage encounters for Matchday 2 on Sunday, 21st January, we take a look at the best 7 players who really impressed for their nations in their quest to qualify for the knockout rounds.

The best 7 stars who impressed on Matchday 2 of AFCON 2023

Emilio Nsue (Equatorial Guinea)

Emilio Nsue in action for Equatorial Guinea during AFCON 2023
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Emilio Nsue was the star man of Equatorial Guinea as they took on Guinea-Bissau in the first match of round 2 which gave fans an experience that will live long in their memories at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan.

Nsue scored the tournament's first hattrick as his nation recorded an emphatic 4-2 victory over Guinea-Bissau last Tuesday to improve his all-time scoring record for Equatorial Guinea. His hattrick ensured him a place in a group of AFCON legends like Laurent Pokou of Ivory Coast and Samuel Eto'o of Cameroon who found the back of the net three or more times in one match.

The Inter City CF forward's performance in Matchday 2 has put his nation on the brink of a place in the next round.

Victor Osimhen (Nigeria)

Victor Osimhen in action for Nigeria
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The reigning African Footballer of the Year did not score as the Super Eagles of Nigeria battled the tournament hosts Ivory Coast last Tuesday.

In a match Nigeria delivered a defensive masterclass, it was Victor Osimhen who provided the most crucial event of the game as he won a penalty for Nigeria minutes into the second half.

The Napoli man gave the spot-kick responsibility to his teammate William Troost-Ekong which he dispatched to ensure Nigeria, against all odds, defeated Ivory Coast 1-0 in front of their fans to stay on course for qualification.

Mohammed Kudus (Ghana)

Mohammed Kudus in action for Ghana in AFCON 2023
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The Golden Boy of Ghana's national football team Mohammed Kudus, showcased his importance for the Black Stars in their game against the Pharaohs of Egypt.

Kudus, who had missed Ghana's opening day loss to Cape Verde was instrumental as his country played out an entertaining 2-2 draw with Egypt, scoring twice on the day to earn a Man of the Match award at the end of the game.

The West Ham star man will now be eager to produce yet another impressive performance for his country in their winner takes it all bout against Mozambique on Monday.

Bebe (Cape Verde)

Cape Verde national team in AFCON 2023
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Looking to build on their opening game victory over Ghana, Cape Verde started like a house on fire as they locked horns with Mozambique in their second Group B match.

Bebe gave out his true intentions for the game as his free-kick in the first-half left the bar shaking from a distance. He was not going to be denied for the second time, just after the half hour mark from a 45 yards free-kick! The former Manchester United man struck his effort so fiercely as it sailed and swerved straight at the goalkeeper who parried it into his own net.

The 32nd minute strike from Bebe set Cape Verde on course for a win, ultimately thumping Mozambique 3-0 to become the first team to qualify for the Round of 16.

Themba Zwane (South Africa)

Themba Zwane in AFCON 2023
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After South Africa's opening Group E loss to Mali, Bafana Bafana needed to react quickly in their second game against Namibia. It was Themba Zwane who inspired the team to a crushing 4-0 victory, scoring twice for Hugo Broos' men and picking up Man of the Match gong.

With the double against the Brave Warriors, the 34-year-old Mamelodi Sundowns player took his tally for Bafana Bafana to 10 goals. Broos and his troops will now expect another attacking masterclass from Zwane in their next game against the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia.

Gelson Dala

Gelson Dala in action for Angola in AFCON 2023
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Angola forward Gelson Dala scored twice for his country in their 3-2 entertaining win over Mauritania last Friday at Stade de la Paix in Bouake.

Dala put up a scintillating performance to grab a goal either side of the half to ensure Angola picked up their first win in the Africa Cup of Nations since the 2012 edition.

The win took Angola top of the table with 4 points, same as Burkina Faso, and will now look to avoid defeat against the Stallions as both teams close out the group stage.

Baghdad Bounedjah

Baghdad Bounedjah in action for Algeria in AFCON 2023
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The 2019 AFCON champions have so far not lived up to expectations as several of their key players have failed to shine in Ivory Coast. However, legendary player Baghdad Bounedjah has been the shining light for Algeria in this tournament.

After going 1-0 down at half-time to Burkina Faso, it was Bounedjah who restored parity for his country. The Stallions went ahead again at the 71st minute mark as Bertrand Traore converted a spot-kick.

Burkina Faso were on course to seal outright qualification but Algeria kept pressuring until added time. A corner was swung in and Bounedjah was able to salvage a point from a bullet header to record his second goal of the match.

The result left Algeria with 2 points and will now need a win against Mauritania on Tuesday to seal qualification.

This article was most recently revised and updated 6 months ago

Joseph is a freelance writer who spends most of his time writing engaging football contents. Based in Nigeria, Joseph is a die-hard Real Madrid fan with over 8 years experience in the sports betting space. He has covered football match previews, predictions, and news across leagues in Africa and Europe.