The 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) has come to an end with the Desert Foxes of Algeria being crowned champions after defeating Senegal 1-0 in the final match played on July 19 at the Cairo International Stadium. AFCON 2019 turned out to be a glorious competition with all the represented countries displaying their worth and showing the world what African football is all about.
The competition paraded Africa’s finest footballers who put up stunning performances for their respective country. Even the ones who are home-based were not left out in doing what they know how to do best for their respective nations.
However, out of all the top performers, DailyAdvent has chosen the best eleven players in the competition with Liverpool star player Mohamed Salah missing out in the list.
AFCON Best XI
1. Rais M’Bolhi (Algeria) GK: He was Algeria’s first-choice goalkeeper as he started every game of the Foxes’ title-winning run and played every minute of the competition for his country, conceding only two goals in seven matches.
Moreover, he was named as “Man of the Match” against Senegal in the final and was also named the best goalkeeper of the tournament.
2. Chidozie Awaziem (Nigeria) RB: The FC Porto centre-back emerged as one of the surprises of the competition after being played out of position by Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr.
After the injury to Shehu Abdullahi in the first game, Awaziem was called upon to take up his place and didn’t disappoint as he finished the competition without any player dribbling past him.
3. Youssouf Sabaly (Senegal) LB: A tidy left-back, Sabaly enjoyed an impressive tournament for the Teranga Lions, playing every minute of the West African giants’ campaign in Egypt. His best performance came in the semi-finals as he ran the show on the left-flank, making countless contributions at the back and getting forward at any given opportunity.
The 26-year-old usually lines up as a right-back for Ligue 1 side, Bordeaux, which makes his performances on the opposite flank for Senegal at AFCON 2019 even more commendable.
4. Kenneth Omeruo (Nigeria) CB: The Chelsea defender hasn’t been a regular fixture in the starting XI for Nigeria in recent years, with Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong being preferred at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but the Blues man delivered in Egypt.
He was in fine form throughout the Super Eagles’ run to claim the bronze medal, demonstrating fine defensive work, and even provided a significant threat at the other end of the pitch, registering a goal and an assist. Omeruo may not have a future at Chelsea, but if he can maintain the level of performance he showed the world in Egypt, then he could prove to be an astute signing for clubs searching for a dependable new defender this summer.
5. Aissa Mandi (Algeria) CB: Rugged, uncompromising and dependable, Mandi was a consistent presence at the back for Algeria. The 27-year-old, who plays his football in Spain, rarely put a foot wrong and formed a formidable partnership alongside Djamel Benlamri, helping to keep five clean sheets. His commitment to the cause was never in doubt all through the competition.
6. Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria) DMF: The Tackler as he’s being called by football fans, he won the man of the match in the Super Eagles’ first group game against Burundi which ended 1-0 in favour of Nigeria.
Ndidi kept improving as the tournament progressed which made him the player who had the most succesful tackles, a stat which he also led in the 2018/19 Premier League season ahead of Senegal’s Idrissa Gana Gueye.
7. Adlene Guediora (Algeria) DMF: The hardworking veteran defensive midfielder was one of the best players in the Algerian team. He was a good cover for the Desert Foxes’ defenders with opposition teams finding it hard to pass through the midfield. He formed a formidable midfield pairing with Bennacer which formed a foundation for the title-winning run of the team.
8. Ismael Bennacer (Algeria) AMF: Bennacer’s outstanding performances for Algeria saw him win the official CAF Player of the Tournament award, so his place in this XI was always going to be guaranteed.
Photo Credit: Footy Ghana
Bennacer pulled the strings from a deep-lying midfield position to dictate the tempo for Algeria, using his excellent range of passing to great effect, contributing to three assists in the process. The Empoli man is unsurprisingly being linked with a big-money move this summer, with Milan looking to be the leading candidates to land his signature.
9. Sadio Mane (Senegal) LWF: Mane confessed that he would happily trade in his Champions League winners medal for AFCON glory this summer, but it wasn’t quite to be for the Liverpool man. Without him, however, Senegal almost certainly wouldn’t have reached the final in the first place, as he inspired his side with three goals in six games.
Mane’s tally could have been even more impressive had he converted the two penalties he missed during the tournament. Like Mahrez, Mane will now be settling down for the summer before returning to action with Liverpool after the start of the Premier League season.
10. Riyad Mahrez (Algeria) RWF: Fresh from winning a historic domestic treble with Manchester City (quadruple if you count the Community Shield), Riyad Mahrez now has an international trophy to add to his growing collection. He exhibited the same winning mentality which has seen him achieve so much success in the Premier League over the past few years, contributing three goals to Algeria’s cause – including a stunning last minute free-kick to send his side to the final at the expense of Nigeria.
The AFCON 2019 title win caps off a successful 12 months for Mahrez and he will now be making the most of a much-deserved break before returning to action with Manchester City as they continue their irrepressible dominance.
11. Odion Ighalo (Nigeria) CF: Given the wealth of attacking talent on show in Egypt, very few would have predicted Odion Ighalo to finish the tournament as the winner of the Golden Boot. But the Nigerian striker did just that, scoring five goals in seven appearances for the Super Eagles, which was two more than anyone else managed to achieve.
His overall game wasn’t totally convincing, but his finishing was undeniably lethal and he proved to be the match winner on several occasions, sending Nigeria on their way to the final four.
Coach of the tournament:
Nicolas Dupuis (Madagascar): When everyone thought Madagascar will be the weaklink of Group B that consisted of Nigeria, Guinea and Burundi, despite being the first team to qualify for the competition during the qualifiers. But the Barea surprised all by not just topping the group alone but by also defeating one of the pre-tournament favourites, Nigeria, 2-0 in their last group game.
The Barea went on to reach the quater-final stage in their first AFCON. All thanks to coach Nicolas Dupuis who devised good tactics which worked for his crop of players.
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