The AFCON 2023 came to a close on Sunday, February 11, with the coronation of Côte d'Ivoire. The 34th edition was full of ups and downs, and saw a number of players shine. Sport News Africa reveals its typical eleven of this AFCON.
CAN 2023 came to a close on Sunday February 11. Côte d'Ivoire were crowned champions following their final victory over Nigeria (1-2). It was a memorable tournament for the Ivorians, who have two representatives in the Sport News Africa Team of the Year. A 4-3-3 formation with South African goalkeeper Ronwen Williams in goal.
Aged 32, the Bafana Bafana goalkeeper's talent shone through, particularly in the penalty shoot-out. His performance against Cape Verde in the quarter-finals (4 penalties saved) went down in AFCON history. He also helped his team to the final podium by saving two penalties against DR Congo in the third-place play-off. These performances were rewarded with the title of best goalkeeper of the tournament.
The defensive line is led by William Troos-Ekong. The Nigerian captain led his team to the final with impeccable leadership. Each time, he converted crucial penalties to give his team victory. He also scored the Super Eagles' goal in the final. He will be voted best player of this competition..
The Nigerian colossus is accompanied by Chancel Mbemba. Chancel Mbemba is another executive who has demonstrated outstanding qualities and leadership. Defensively solid, the OM player also made his contribution in attack. It was he who put DR Congo back in the match against Guinea (3-1) in the quarter-finals.
On the flanks, Ola Aina will play on the right and Arthur Masuaku on the left. The former was very active on the right flank for the Nigerian team.Positioned a little higher up the pitch (piston), Aina played an active role in his team's attacking phases. The Nottingham Forest defender's intelligence and staggering composure were a real strength for the Super Eagles. As for the latter, the Congolese will long remember his liberating free-kick against Guinea in the quarter-finals. A fine left foot and very solid defensively.
A backbone for the last four
Teboho Mokoena, Samuel Moutoussamy and Franck Kessié will be at the heart of the game. The former has made a name for himself with Bafana Bafana thanks to his technical ability and intelligence. Positioned as a sentinel in a double pivot, the Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder was the spearhead of his team.Comfortable on the ball, he also proved to be a good striker. His unstoppable free-kick against Morocco in the Round of 16 (0-2) was a case in point.
As for the second, the DR Congo will certainly remember his fighting spirit and his fine left foot. The FC Nantes midfielder often dominated his opponents with his aggressiveness and positional sense. For the third, Franck Kessié is certainly a reflection of his team. Unrecognizable in the first round, the former FC Barcelona and Elephants player has gone from strength to strength as the competition has progressed. After making an exceptional start against Senegal in the 8th round (0-0, 4-5 Pen), Kessié dominated the other matches.His performance in the final against Nigeria, with a goal to boot, is a perfect illustration.
Victor Osimhen leads the attack
Although he only scored one goal in this AFCON, Victor Osimhen was still very decisive. A leader of the attack, the Napoli striker was able to cause his opponents enormous problems and force them into action. It was he who won the penalty against Côte d'Ivoire (0-1) in the group stage and the one against South Africa in the semi-final.Not to mention his decisive pass against Cameroon in the 8th round (2-0).
The 2023 African Golden Ball winner will be joined up front by the competition's top scorer, Emilio Nsue. After a historic hat-trick against Guinea Bissau (4-2), the 36-year-old striker scored twice against the host nation (4-0). A resounding victory that brought down Côte d'Ivoire. The player from CF Intercity (3rd division, Spain) was unstoppable.
Simon Adingra, Côte d'Ivoire's nugget, is the other star of the show. The Brighton player is certainly the symbol of the Ivorians' renaissance.Injured in the first few games, Adingra will make his contribution in the knockout stages. He made a fine entrance against Senegal in the 8th round, before becoming an indisputable starter from the semi-finals onwards. He also finished as man of the match in the final, and was named best young player of the AFCON. A great revelation for this 22-year-old striker.