Imperious Eto'o streaks ahead
Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o etched his name in the record books of African football on Wednesday, with a brace in his country's 3-0 victory over Sudan. That took his CAF Africa Cup of Nations tally to 16 strikes and put him two goals clear of Côte d'Ivoire's Laurent Pokou, who set pulses racing at the 1968 and 1970 editions. With five goals in three games, Eto'o is also leading the way in the scoring charts at the current edition in Ghana, where the Indomitable Lions are safely through to the quarter-finals.
Pokou's record lasted 38 years and Eto'o will be keen to set the bar as high as possible before the competition is over. Having won his first cap at 15 and made his FIFA World Cup debut aged 17 at France 1998, the Barcelona marksman has certainly had time to perfect his art on the international stage. He is currently appearing in his fifth CAF Africa Cup of Nations, in fact, and has triumphed in the tournament twice, picking up at a winners-medal at Nigeria 2000 and in Mali two years later. In that time, he has thrilled crowds with moments of individual genius, explosive runs and a technique teeming with class, and he set the new milestone from the penalty spot - just as Pele did for his 1000 th strike.
With that, Laurent Pokou was relegated to second place on the list, but the Ivorian still tops the goals-per-game chart. His 14 efforts were spread over just two editions of the competition, including six in 1968 and eight in 1970, whereas Eto'o is participating in his fifth tournament. Pokou also boasts the most number of goals scored in a single encounter, having put five past Ethiopia during the group phase in 1970. An exceptional passer of the ball as well as a peerless finisher, he was the first professional footballer from Côte d'Ivoire to ply his trade beyond the country's borders, and notably enjoyed a spell with current UEFA President Michel Platini at AS Nancy-Lorraine.
Occupying third place on the all-time scorers list is Nigerian Rashidi Yekini, a stalwart of the fearsome Super Eagles side from the 1990s that also featured Daniel Amokachi, Emmanuel Amunike and Jay Jay Okocha. Yekini plundered 13 goals overall, including five at the 1994 edition in Tunisia, where he finished top-scorer. Capable of unleashing venomous shots with either foot, the powerful forward struck 37 times for his country in 58 matches and also notched up 105 efforts for the club closest to his heart, Vitoria Setubal.
Next on the list is Egypt's Hassan El-Chazly, scorer of 12 goals, and behind him lie two greats of the African game. Cameroon star Patrick Mboma was a southpaw blessed with both pace and power and was the key man in the Indomitable Lions line-up that conquered the continent in both 2000 and 2002; back when Eto'o was still building his reputation. With 11 strikes to his name, he shares fifth place with Hossam Hassan, 'the Pharaoh of Pharaohs' and one of Egypt's best ever players. Famed for his longevity, Hossam Hassan holds the Egyptian records for most appearances (170) and goals scored (69), and celebrated his third CAF Africa Cup of Nations success at the age of 39 in February 2006.
The fierce competition for places on the scorers list is made evident by some of the names lingering lower down the pecking order. Tunisia's naturalised Brazilian Silva dos Santos is merely 12 th with eight strikes, for example, while South African Benni McCarthy, Cameroonian legend Roger Milla and Nigeria's Augustine 'Jay Jay' Okocha all have to share 14 th position after firing in seven goals apiece.
Ultimately, all records are there to be broken and now that Pokou's benchmark has been beaten the race begins to put Eto'o's figure in the shade. Nobody will be hungrier to do that than the Cameroonian sharpshooter himself, of course, and he will look to raise the bar even higher against Tunisia in Monday's quarter-final.