The curtains of the gripping 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) came down on Friday with Algeria emerging victorious in a tense final in Cairo. The final was the peak of a splendid tournament which saw 24 teams take part for the first time. Most established players on the continent delivered, while the unknowns made a name for themselves. Here are the Top 5 Players from the 2019 AFCON. Bet on football here.
Odion Ighalo – Nigeria
With the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez and Nicholas Pepe playing in the just concluded tournament, few would have predicted that Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo to finish as the Golden Boot Winner. The 30-year-old striker accomplished that, with five goals in seven appearances for the Super Eagles, which was two more than anyone else managed. He was excellent throughout the tournament scoring important goals which took his country to the semis. He delivered match-winning performances in the 1-0 wins over Burundi and Tunisia. His two goals and an assist in the 3-2 Round of 16 win over Cameroon was one of the best individual performances in the tournament.
Mohamed El-Shenawy – Egypt
Algeria’s Rais M’Bolhi might have the best statistical record and even man-of-the-match in the final but El-Shenaway delivered a memorable performance in the four games his country played. Egypt might not have been in the tournament for a long time, but El-Shenawy kept them in most matches. The 30-year-old bailed them out against the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe, while they also had the goalkeeper to thank for not conceding first against Uganda. He kept a clean sheet in each of his three group stage outings while only M’Bolhi (16) made more saves than him (15) at the tournament.
Youcef Atal – Algeria
Atal was obviously the best full-back in the competition. The Nice right-back was superb both offensively and defensively before he suffered a broken collarbone sustained against the Ivory Coast which ended his competition. His overlapping runs and ball-carrying abilities were crucial to Algeria’s approach to the game. The 23-year-old averaged three tackles per game and also provided an assist against Guinea in the Round of 16.
Ismael Bennacer – Algeria
Ismael Bennacer’s outstanding performances for Algeria saw him win the official CAF Player of the Tournament award. Bennacer pulled the strings from a deep-lying midfield position, dictating the tempo and being in the middle of everything good Djamel Belmandi side did. The 21-year-old Empoli midfielder also contributed three assists testament to his dynamism which is excellent considering his young age. The former Arsenal man is likely to move to AC Milan from Empoli over the coming weeks.
Sadio Mane – Senegal
Senegal winger Mane had a mixed tournament in Egypt. He bagged three goals in six games, which would have been more had he not missed two penalties in the early stages or been suspended for the opener. Mane attempted 34 dribbles, the most in the tournament, with a success rate of 59%. However, his threat was completely nullified by Algeria in the final due to their defensive approach to the game leaving no space for the Liverpool star to operate.