BEST XI: ‘AFRICANS’ AT EURO 2016

Here’s the best of the bunch of players with African origin who’d be at the European Championship that kicks off in France today

The 2016 European Championship, Europe’s biggest party — never mind the Uefa Champions League — kicks off later today in France, but African interest in the show is hardly limited to the millions who’d be glued to TV sets all over the Dark Continent catching up with the summer’s grandest event; among the finest players who’d parade their talents at the tournament are several who have ties — some remote, others not-so-distant — with Africa. KickerGH knits together a strong XI, made up of stars who, bar any last-minute hitch, will be present.

DEFENCE

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Jerome Boateng against Andre Ayew at the Fifa World Cup Brazil 2014

Steve Mandanda, one of only four from his family (all brothers) to be employed as a professional goalkeeper, is of Congolese extraction. Once France’s No.1, the Olympique Marseille glovesman lost his place to Hugo Lloris under Raymond Domenech and is yet to reclaim the spotlight but remains a vital component of the national team.

Our four-man defence is a tightly-strung one, comprised of some of Europe’s brightest talents, budding and blossomed. First up is 2015/16 Europa League winner Adil Rami who, before settling for a France shirt, was also eligible for his parents’ Morocco. Rami finds himself in great company, glittering alongside the remarkably accomplished Jerome Boateng in central defence, as well as France duo Bacary Sagna and Patrice Evra who operate on the flanks. Boateng, a Fifa World Cup winner with Germany, has a Ghanaian father; Sagna hails from Senegal and at one time even entertained thoughts of representing the Lions of Teranga; while Evra is of mixed Cape Verdean and Guinean descent, though born in Senegalese capital Dakar.

MIDFIELD

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Paul Pogba

There couldn’t be a better pivot in midfield than the formidable N’Golo Kante. Kante, one huge reason for Leicester City’s run to an unlikely Premier League crown last term, only recently committed his future to France, where he was born, though hitherto coveted by Mali, too. A few yards ahead of the 25-year-old on the pitch is another with roots in West Africa (Guinea, specifically), another highly esteemed midfielder in the global game, and another Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps would count heavily on in his bid to keep the trophy on French soil — the ridiculously brilliant Paul Pogba.

The right and left margins are manned by two doubtlessly talented wingers, Leroy Sane of Schalke 04 and AC Milan’s Stephan El Shaarawy. Both have African dads (Sane’s is an ex-Senegal international, El Shaarawy’s is Egyptian), with their moms German and Italian respectively — eventually, though, the pair settled for the latter nationalities.

ATTACK

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Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke are expected yo lead the line for Belgium in the Euros

At the Euros, Belgium may well line up with England-based pair Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku upfront, two men who are as thoroughly African — specifically Congolese — as could be; the former, in fact, only arrived in Europe after spending his early years in Kinshasa.

Other notable names include: Moussa Dembele (Mali, Belgium), Michy Batshuayi (DR Congo, Belgium), Divock Origi (Kenya, Belgium), Marouane Fellaini (Morocco, Belgium), Theodor Gebre Selassie (Ethiopia, Czech Rep.), Sami Khedira (Tunisia, Germany), Dele Alli (Nigeria, England), Angelo Ogbonna (Nigeria, Italy), and Moussa Sissoko (Mali, France).

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