Africa’s five representatives-Morocco, Senegal, Ghana, Tunisia, and Cameroon were worthy ambassadors in Qatar. For the first time, all the African nations at a FIFA World Cup won a match each, while African managers managed all five countries.
While the Atlas Lions broke the glass ceiling with their foray into the semi-final, there were other players from the other that burnished their credentials while there were some breakout stars.
PREMIUM TIMES sets up the team in a 4-4-2 formation.
Yassine Bounou – Morocco
Bounou was unquestionably the best African goalkeeper in Qatar. He conceded one goal before the semi-final and made incredible saves against Croatia in the first match, giving Morocco the opportunity to make history. While he was nervous in that first match, especially with the ball at his feet, the Sevilla goalkeeper grew into the tournament and became his team’s reliable passing conduit from the back, and he was massive in the penalty shootout against Spain.
Achraf Hakimi – Morocco
The PSG defender did not score in Qatar, but he gave everything. Because of the tactical formation, Hakimi was not released forward as much as he would have liked, but whenever he ventured across the halfway line, there was danger for the opponent. The 24-year-old was immense against Spain in the second round, in which he made four tackles and got one shot on target.
Daniel Amartey – Ghana
The Leicester City defender commanded his team and played like the captain of his side. He was unruffled and confident, which was more than his teammates displayed when it mattered most against Uruguay in Ghana’s last group match.
Romain Saiss – Morocco
It was not a coincidence that the injury to Saiss meant Morocco started conceding goals in Qatar. He bravely tried to play with a strapped-up thigh against France, but by the 10th minute, he knew his race was over. His excellent vision and peerless tackling helped Morocco douse the offensive onslaughts from Croatia, Spain, and Portugal.
Sofyan Amrabat – Morocco
It is arguable that Amrabat was the best midfielder at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He was the complete embodiment of a central midfielder-able to receive the ball under pressure, run with the ball, pass the ball and defend, and he guaranteed his team’s defensive solidity. The Fiorentina man will have many suitors in the January transfer window.
Azzedine Ounahi – Morocco
The Angers midfielder shone like a million stars as he ran Morocco’s midfield between the lines. At times, he seemed to glide through matches with the ball stuck to his feet. You could count on the right hand the number of times he was dispossessed of the ball. He started on the bench in the third-place match and his importance showed immediately. They introduced him as Morocco pinned Croatia in their half for the rest of that match. Definitely, he will move from his lowly French team in January or in the summer.
Mohammed Kudus – Ghana
Another player who came into the world’s view in Qatar. He was everything and more in attacking opponents. His versatility is also a plus, being able to operate from wide or in central midfield and even as a No.9. The Black Stars have a player to take over from the Ayews as the offensive fulcrum for many years to come.
Hakim Ziyech – Morocco
The Ziyech that showed up in Qatar was radically different from the one that confuses regularly with Chelsea in the English Premier League. The winger dovetailed seamlessly with Hakimi to lock down the right wing, whether it was offensively or defensively. His assist for Zakaria Aboukhlal against Belgium was a match-winner and confidence booster. He also led the Lions when Saiss was injured. If he intends to change clubs in January, he literally stamped his escape from Chelsea in Qatar.
Centre Forward 1
The almost 10m leap against Portugal to score the only goal will be remembered forever. Though En-Nesyri flitted in and out of matches, his two goals help him into this Africa 11.
Centre Forward 2
Vincent Aboubakar – Cameroon
The question many asked of the Indomitable Lions’ bench was why Aboubakar was benched from the start of the tournament. On the benefit of hindsight, if he had played and scored against Switzerland, the Lions would have made it to the second round. The effervescence and direct running he brought on when sent on against Serbia lifted his team and we will play back his headed goal against Brazil a million times.
Goalkeepers: Devis Epassy (Cameroon); Aymen Dahmen (Tunisia)
Defenders: Collins Fai (Cameroon); Nayef Aguerd (Morocco); Noussair Mazraoui (Morocco); Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal); Nadir Ghandri (Tunisia)
Midfielders: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Cameroon); Idrissa Gueye (Senegal); Aissa Laidouni (Tunisia)
Wingers: Sofiane Boufal (Morocco); Ismaila Sarr (Senegal); Iliman Ndiaye (Senegal)
Centre Forwards: Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia); Boulaye Dia (Senegal)
Walid Regragui – Morocco
The greatest compliment paid to 47-year-old Regragui was the dissection of the way his team was set up by erstwhile Portugal manager, Fernando Santos, and the inability to break it down in that historic 1-0 win that gave Africa a first-ever semi-final place. Until the semi-final 2-0 loss to France, the Lions had kept all opponents at bay-the only goal conceded in four matches was an own goal against Canada.
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