Five players who are shaping the WAFU Cup in Senegal

Ahead of the WAFU Cup of Nations quarterfinals, ESPN Africa's Ed Dove picks out five players who have impressed him during the First Round of the West African championship in Senegal.

Which of this quintet will have the biggest role to play as we approach the business end of the biennial regional showpiece?

Gnama Akate

While much of the fallout from Nigeria's 2-1 defeat by Togo in their opener last weekend has focused on the Super Eagles' own failings, the Sparrow Hawks deserve immense credit for building on their recent African Nations Championship qualifying victory over the West Africans with another strong showing.

Captain Akate was at the heart of much that was excellent about Togo's performance; he was a tenacious, busy presence in the midfield, stymying Nigeria's attempts to take control of the match, while disrupting Fatai Gbadamosi, Ndifreke Effiong and Samuel Matthias.

In possession, the AS Togo Port man passed intelligently, neatly, and also drove the play forward with his rangy running style and astute movement.

Assane Mbodj

Named Man of the Match after Senegal's opening 3-1 victory over Guinea-Bissau, Mbodi demonstrated why he's long been one of the most admired talents in the Senegalese top flight.

Perhaps Djibril Gueye's contribution was more eye-catching, but Mbodj offered inventive excellent behind centre-forward Youssoupha Badji, dovetailing excellently with Ibrahima Drame while working effectively between the lines.

Beyond adding the hosts' second goal - a close-range effort - Mbodj's work rate was admirable, and he capitalised on the space in front of the Bissau-Guinean defence to get the best out of his younger teammates.

The Diaraf star was deservedly named Man of the Match.

Jerome Bonou

Marcellin Koukpo may have won the Man of the Match award for the part he played in Benin's dramatic 2-1 victory over Guinea in the final First Round tie, but Bonou was every bit as influential as the Tunisia-based striker.

The midfielder was a probing presence in the heart of the park for Les Ecureuils, demonstrating the kind of technical quality that prompted Djoliba of Mali to recruit him from ASPAC.

Bonou showcased his poise and creativity with some good build-up play, and then struck a thumping 92nd-minute winner to spare Benin the tension of a penalty shootout.

Laurent Magbi

The Ivory Coast's 4-1 rout of Cape Verde was one of the most convincing displays of the first round, with the Elephants taking control early and then killing off the contest after the break.

Right from the start, the islanders struggled to deal with Magbi, who won a penalty when he was bundled over inside the first five minutes, and then duly converted from the spot.

The striker, who perplexingly wears the Ivorians' number three shirt, added his second from close range in the 22nd minute after Kevin Sousa fumbled the ball into his path.

Mamaye Coulibaly

The Mali wideman proved himself to be an absolute class act as the Eagles thumped Niger 3-1 in their First Round match to set up a quarterfinal against Sierra Leone.

He constantly sought to attack the Leone Stars' backline when in possession, winning a penalty inside the opening two minutes when he was tripped by Mahmadou Souley Salamoun, as the Niger defence struggled to cope with his movement.

Coulibaly then contributed the assist for the second goal, creating some space down Nigeria's right with a delicious step-over, riding a challenge, before chipping in a delicious cross for Moussa Kone to add Mali's second.

It will be intriguing to see how Sierra Leone manage to keep him at bay in the quarterfinals.