by Dean Ammi
So AFCON is over. And although Gabon let us down with their poor pitches and cagey crowds, the football did not disappoint. Furthermore, here is my XI of AFCON 2017:
GK – Fabrice Ondoa (Cameroon)
Ondoa was the most consistent goalkeeper in the tournament. Despite being just 21-years-old, he made some stunning saves to keep his side in the competition – particularly in the quarter-final against Senegal where he saved Sadio Mane’s penalty that subsequently knocked out the tournament favourites.
RCB – Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui (Cameroon)
I’ve gone with three central defenders. Ngadeu-Ngadjui is the first, and he was phenomenal at AFCON 2017. Not only was he a rock at the back, but he also scored two crucial goals in games where the scores were level. I’ll be extremely surprised if he isn’t in one of Europe’s top leagues next season.
CB – Ahmed Hegazy (Egypt)
Egypt surprised many people in making it all the way to the final, but they have their defence to thank for reaching the latter stages. Hegazy is referred to as the ‘Egyptian Nesta’, and he was worthy of that nickname after his solid displays in Gabon over the past few weeks.
LCB – Ali Gabr (Egypt)
Hegazy’s partner in crime Gabr was equally as impressive. Blocks, interceptions, clearances; you name it. So many sides found it hard to break down this Egyptian team and these two centre-backs were the reasons why this was the case.
RM – Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
Mohamed Salah’s ability was limited by both poor playing surfaces and his team’s tactics to play defensively, but two fantastic finishes against Ghana and Burkina Faso in addition to two assists are why he earns a place in this team.
RCM – Sebastien Siani (Cameroon)
Siani’s long ball forward in the 88th minute of the final looked like it would be comfortable for the Egyptian defence, but it turned out to be a brilliant pass that setup Vincent Aboubakar’s winner. His team spirit was inspirational and although he isn’t the most fanciest of players, he was the perfect box-to-box man that Hugo Broos could rely on.
LCM – Mbark Boussoufa (Morocco)
Boussoufa had a really good tournament, but perhaps was the most unlucky player at AFCON having hit the post in two different matches. He gave life and energy to the Moroccan midfield and with a little bit of luck they could have gone even further than the quarter-final (and they definitely deserved to). His delivery from set pieces was fabulous too.
LM – Christian Bassogog (Cameroon)
CAF named Bassogog as the Player of the Tournament and I would have to agree with them. Another player who is destined for much bigger things at club level now, Bassogog got better and better as the competition progressed. His goal against Ghana to seal Cameroon’s place in the final gave me goosebumps.
RW – Junior Kabananga (DR Congo)
Kabananga was the top scorer at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations with three goals in four games. They should have put Ghana to bed in the first half of their quarter-final, but Kabananga can keep his head held high and showed some phenomenal attacking accuracy in the few games that he featured in.
ST – Aristide Bance (Burkina Faso)
A true legend of African football, there was no way I was leaving Aristide Bance out of this XI. He scored in both the quarter-final and the semi-final, showing that age is just a number. His smashing strike against Tunisia kicked off the knockout stages in style.
LW – Prejuce Nakoulma (Burkina Faso)
Nakoulma’s celebrations matched his footballing ability at AFCON 2017. After being benched in the game vs hosts Gabon, he came on as a substitute and scored; celebrating by going back to the seat he was sitting on. His power and pace was instrumental in helping Burkina Faso to 3rd place, along with two goals to his name.