Algeria look to Mahrez for title
Suez - Of all the big-name strikers who took their form and pedigree from Europe's top leagues into the Africa Cup of Nations, only one has truly lived up to his star billing: Algeria's Riyad Mahrez.
Fallen by the wayside lie Liverpool's Mohamed Salah and Hakim Ziyech of Ajax who both struggled at the end of a long season to inspire Egypt and Morocco respectively.
Both teams have been humbled. Nicholas Pepe, who scored 22 goals for Lille last season, has yet to fire.
That leaves the mighty Mahrez who will lead the Desert Foxes in their quarterfinal against Ivory Coast today.
The Algeria captain has been in wonderful form, his touch and finish in the 3-0 win over Guinea in the last round indicative of a player brimming with confidence after helping Manchester City to the domestic treble in England.
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According to the Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi, the right wing hasn't allowed that club success to go to his head.
"He is talented and plays for a big club but we mustn't put him under too much pressure.
"Riyad has no desire to have the status of star," said Belmadi after another Mahrez goal had taken Algeria to a 2-0 win in their opening game against Kenya.
It helps Mahrez that he is at the heart of a team whose parts are all functoning smoothly. They have won all four games so far, scoring nine goals and conceding none.
Now 28, Mahrez might easily be a world champion by now. Born in France, he declared instead for Algeria, the land of his parents, in time to play in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. That year he also made the move from Le Havre to English side Leicester City and played a massive role, including 17 goals and 10 assists, in guiding the Foxes to an astonishing and unlikely Premier League title in 2015-16.
His ?67m (R1bn) move to Manchester City a year ago launched him into a team of galacticos as Pep Guardiola's team won the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup, Mahrez chipping in with 12 goals and 12 assists across all competitions.