AFCON 2023 Players to watch from Belgium: Defenders

This week, another edition of AFCON will begin in the Cote d’Ivoire. The tournament is returning to the country for the first time since 1984, when Cameroon won their first title over Nigeria. Since then the tournament has expanded, with 24 teams set to battle it out to become the champions of the continent. Over the next week we will look at the Belgian based players set to compete. Yesterday we looked at the two goalkeepers heading to the tournament, today we will look at the defenders.

Joris Kayembe – DR Congo and Genk

After leaving Charleroi in the summer, Joris Kayembe has had to bide his time to gain a starting place in Genk. However, he has now become the first choice left-back at the club as Mexican Gerardo Arteaga looks to return to central America. The 29-year-old has played 22 games for the club so far, scoring twice and providing two assists. Kayembe switched his international allegiance to the DR Congo back in March 2023 and has gone on to make three appearances, starting the two previous World Cup qualifiers for the side. The DRC join Zambia, Morocco and Tanzania in Group F.

Nurio Fortuna – Angola and Gent

Another former Charleroi man is also on his way to AFCON. Nurio Fortuna played 91 times for the Zebras before he moved to Gent in the summer of 2020. He has gone on to make 126 appearances for Gent, scoring five goals. This season he has played 10 matches, yet only seven of these have come in the Pro League. Nurio offers Angola some defensive versatility, in that he can play as a left-back or left-wing back, or as a central defender in a three. Angola will face Algeria, Burkina Faso and Mauritania in Group D.

Denis Odoi – Ghana and Club Brugge

Dennis Odoi only switched his international allegiances to Ghana recently, but has since gone to the World Cup and now AFCON. The once capped Belgian Red Devil has played nine times for Ghana, including once at the Qatar 2022 World Cup. He returned to Belgium in January 2022 to join Club Brugge from Fulham and has gone on to make 75 appearances, scoring twice. Like Nurio, he offers the Black Stars some defensive versatility. Odoi can play as a right-back or central defender, or even slightly further forward as a defensive midfielder.

Prosper Mendy – Guinea-Bissau and Olympique Charleroi

Third division side Olympique Charleroi will be without Prosper Mendy for the next few weeks. The summer signing, who can operate as a left-back or central defender, has made 13 appearances for the side this season. With just a one year contract to his name, Mendy could certainly use the AFCON to try and impress future clubs if he is not able to remain with Charleroi next season. The side currently sit sixth in the Belgian third division. Mendy has only made one appearance for Guinea Bissau, but has been included in previous squads.

Alfonso Amade – Mozambique and Oostende

Former Hoffenheim prospect Alfonso Amade will get to escape the worrying situation in Oostende and focus on international football for a few weeks with Mozambique. The versatile 24-year-old joined the coastal side during the summer of 2021 and can operate either as a full-back or anywhere across the midfield. He has played six Challenger Pro League games this season, operating more as a defensive midfield. However, Mozambique have listed him as a defender on their squad list for the upcoming tournament. The former German youth international has yet to make an appearance for the nation.

Interested in learning more about the history of AFCON? GBeNeFN editor in chief Ben Jackson recently published his debut book on the history of the tournament, which can be found here or from all major bookshops.

GBeNeFN | Ben Jackson

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