The EFL Championship stars impressing at AFCON 2019
Peter Etebo (pictured) has impressed for Nigeria at this year's African Cup of Nations. (Getty Images/Giuseppe Cacace)

The African Cup of Nations has reached its halfway point, where the group stages come to their conclusion and the nail-biting knockout phase begins.

Amongst the likes of Champions League winners, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane are plenty of Championship stars hoping to be crowned one of Africa's elite - and amongst those are a few standout performers from the first half of proceedings.

Ahmed Hegazy - (West Bromwich Albion & Egypt)

With the spotlight on Premier League Golden Boot recipient Salah and the emerging Trezeguet, it's easy to overlook the achievements of the host nation Egypt's defence as they stormed to three wins from three in Group A.

Hegazy helped the Pharoah's to three clean sheets in those games as well, firstly racking up a 100% successful dribble rate and 84% successful pass rate as they scraped a 1-0 win in their opener with Zimbabwe.

Egypt upped the ante against the DR Conga next, winning 2-0 as the likes of Cedric Bakambu battered their back-line to no avail, owing to the efforts of the central defender. This time the 28-year-old made five clearances to keep the Leopards at bay.

Finally, it was Uganda to suffer a similar fate with a 2-0 defeat as the host nation romped home to the knockouts. Once more their opposition pounded on the door - reeling off 17 shots to Egypt's seven.

Despite his four clearances, Hegazy wasn't as imposing in the air or along the ground this time, with a 50% success rate from his aerial battles and a weaker rate of successful passes to match. However, the Hawthorns man was solid enough to help Egypt through with a perfect defensive record.

Andre Ayew - (Swansea City & Ghana)

Ayew's AFCON got off to the perfect start within ten minutes as the Swansea winger cut onto his left foot and excellently rolled an effort into the near post beyond Benin 'keeper Fabien Farnolle. This was despite their opponents taking a shock lead early on, although in the end the sides settled for a 2-2 draw with brother Jordan also on the scoresheet.

The Ghanaian failed to convert in either of their remaining group games but put in a shift in both, firstly creating two chances and key passes, with a 79% pass accuracy rate in their toughest fixture with Cameroon, which ended 0-0.

Then the 29-year-old further helped the 'Black Stars' to the top of their group with a comfortable 2-0 triumph over Guinea-Bissau. Ayew produced an 81% pass accuracy rate but failed to create a chance or key pass, although the West African outfit found their feet just fine in the Suez Stadium.

Peter Etebo - (Stoke City & Nigeria)

Nominated for Stoke's player of the year award, Etebo has had an impressive debut season in the Championship. The 23-year-old was a bright spark in an otherwise underwhelming campaign for the Potters but he's now tipped to help put the wheels in motion for the club's potential promotion push.

As for his AFCON campaign, the Nigerian midfielder started off very hit and miss. Despite completing the most passes and coming away from the most accurate passer on the pitch against Burundi, Etebo did also give away the ball the most, three times to be exact. Thankfully for him, the Super Eagles held their nerve and saw through a 1-0 victory.

Next came his best performance of the lot. Outshining a Guinea midfield consisting of Liverpool's £50m star Naby Keita, Etebo completed the most tackles and was once more the most accurate passer on the pitch, completing 92% of his balls and giving Syli Nationale little in the way of chances, as Nigeria were 1-0 victors again.

Lastly comes the first defeat for a player on this list - and by far and away the biggest shock of the tournament thus far. But despite Madagascar's 2-0 triumph of Etebo's Nigeria, the Stoke man was still the best player his nation fielded. He completed the most passes and was clearly kept busy but failed to keep the AFCON debutants at bay as the Super Eagles slumped to second place in the group. However, Etebo's group stage showings are a huge confidence booster for the knockouts.

André-Frank Zambo Anguissa - (Fulham & Cameroon)

After a troubled season of club football which culminated in Fulham's immediate return to the second-tier, Anguissa is a Championship player - for now. But whilst his future with the club remains undecided, the midfielder has put in three above-par showings out of three as Cameroon qualified for the last 16 at AFCON.

The 23-year-old wasn't the stand-out performer as the 'Indomitable Lions' swept aside Guinea-Bissau 2-0, but still ran the midfield well and got his side moving forward. 31 of his 47 passes were made in the opposition half, he looked direct and his 85% pass accuracy rate matches that. Although his five shots show an element of attacking prowess from the Lilywhites star, these were all off-target, not that Cameroon needed another goal in the end.

Anguissa looked strong and steady against Ayew's Ghana in game two - completing the most dribbles and winning the most duels of any player on the pitch. Unfortunately, his direct game had little impact in the final two matches, both ending 0-0, although the Fulham man produced an 80+% pass accuracy in both and also a key pass and chance against Benin in the final fixture.

Badou Ndiaye - (Stoke City & Senegal)

Deep in the heart of Senegal's midfield, in-demand Stoke midfielder Ndiaye has matched his counterpart Etebo and enjoyed an excellent AFCON thus far. The 28-year-old has helped the cogs turn on his side's qualification for the last 16, albeit in second place.

His 93% pass success rate was pivotal in their first victory over Tanzania, also creating a chance from defensive midfield. In their next game with Riyad Mahrez's Algeria, Ndiaye completed the most tackles and won the most duels despite their 2-0 defeat that left progression in the balance.

However a whopping 97% pass success rate, even having completed the most passes on the pitch helped Senegal romp home to a 3-0 victory over Kenya. The midfielder also created two chances but still awaits his first goal and assist of the competition.

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