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AFCON- Africa Cup of Nations

Morocco & Senegal players dominate in AFCON 2023 Team of Group Stage

Published at :January 26, 2024 at 10:35 PM
Modified at :January 26, 2024 at 10:35 PM
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Manav Chowdhury


Some of the top performers in AFCON 2023 Group Stage

What we witnessed in the past couple of weeks might be one of the most entertaining group stages of any tournament. Defending champions Senegal have been the only team to live up to expectations, winning all three of their group games. Some other bigger names on the continent such as Ghana, Tunisia, and Algeria are already out, while hosts Ivory Coast only just scraped through to the knockout rounds as one of the third-place teams.

There have been other underdog stories, too. Namibia and Mauritania have both won their first-ever games at an AFCON during this group stage and qualified for the knockouts on the back of those wins. Amid all of this have been players putting in some heroic performances and catching the eye during a dramatic 12 days.

After wrapping up the Group Stage of the current Africa Cup of Nations with tons of goals, emotions, drama, and, most importantly, football here is the best XI from the group stages:

Goalkeeper: Jesus Owono (Equatorial Guinea)

Equatorial Guinea’s opening game against Nigeria, in which they survived a barrage of attacks from their opponents to draw 1-1, gave them the platform from which to go on and win the group. Despite barely featuring in La Liga for his club side, Alaves, he is proving himself one of the best goalkeepers at this tournament for the second edition in a row. His performance impressed a lot of people and it will be very important for him to keep up his level.

Right-Back: Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)

Hakimi is a dynamic defender with the ability to recover the ball as well as launch an attack with his explosive speed. Despite being a reputable right-back, he can play as a left-back as well as a wingback on either flank, highlighting his versatility and dynamism in attack. He is a player with the ability to create chances with long and short passes from the defence launching into attack. Even in the game against Zambia when he didn’t register a goal contribution, he was still one of the best players on the pitch.

Centre-Back: Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal)

Kalidou Koulibaly AFCON 2023
Senegal kept two clean sheets in the group stage

The Senegalese does split his responsibilities well and contributes actively to the team’s defensive actions, whether it is with direct interventions or by pressing. His composure and intuition in possession always help the team to progress the ball smoothly. His defensive performance, on the other side, minimises the number of errors at the back and lowers the opposition’s efficiency in front of the goal. He is rock solid at the back for his team and his presence gives the team a lot of stability.

Centre-Back: Nayef Aguerd (Morocco)

Aguerd is a left-footed centre-back who has gained most of his experience playing in a back four. He is strong in the air, where he times his jumps well and can hang to win aerial battles. He is aggressive when attacking the ball. His aerial ability is useful at set-pieces at both ends of the pitch. The Moroccan also takes a front-foot, aggressive approach to duels on the ground and one-on-one defending. Aguerd is a leader on the pitch. His presence and his communication with his teammates give them confidence and this shows how important he is for his team.

Left-Back: Arthur Masuaku (DR Congo)

Masuaku was a consistent presence and often a threat to the opposition as DR Congo qualified for the knockout stages thanks to three draws in the group stage. He performed well against Morocco’s strong right side in their important 1-1 draw with the group winners. He will have to keep performing like this in the knockout round as well.

Defensive Midfielder: Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco)

Sofyan Amrabat AFCON 2023
Sofyan Amrabat won Man of the Match against Zambia

He is comfortable carrying the ball into space, but his talent is progressing the ball forward with passes, especially when he has the time to do so against low-block teams. Off the ball, Amrabat doesn’t stop running. He’s adept at sitting deep and spraying passes all over the pitch whilst also providing the defensive reliability required of a deep-lying midfielder. He’s then able to use his tremendous vision and high-quality technique to exploit passing lanes and deliver excellent progressive and penetrative passes and crosses from the half-spaces.

Central Midfielder: Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco)

Marseille midfielder Ounahi has been one of the most eye-catching players in this tournament so far, putting in notable performances in each of Morocco’s group-stage matches. Despite his slim frame, Ounahi is an aggressive box-to-box midfielder who is as capable of winning in a ground duel. His performance will be very crucial for the national team as he has been the best player for them.

Central Midfielder: Lamine Camara (Senegal)

Camara’s standout feature is his precise passing, enabling him to link up play seamlessly and create goal-scoring opportunities for his team.  Additionally, his offensive flair was on full display during the AFCON 2023 match against Gambia, where he scored two goals, showcasing his proficiency in finding the back of the net. He is still young and can be a big asset for the National Team in the future

Right-Wing: Gelson Dala (Angola)

He is in fine form and he is replicating the same performance for the National Team at AFCON which he performed for his club. Not many people expected him to perform at this competition but he has surprised many fans with his good performance. He has scored two goals in the competitions as of now and can score more goals in the upcoming fixture. He is one of the reasons for Angola’s topping the Group D.

Left-Wing: Ismaila Sarr (Senegal)

Ismaila Sarr AFCON 2023
Ismaila Sarr has scored one and created two goals in the group stage

Sarr is unusual in that he is a right-footed winger who plays on the right – but he also does far more than just run towards the byline and put a cross into the box. He manoeuvres himself intelligently to beat opponents and uses his huge stride and devastating pace to run diagonally towards the goal. Sarr gets in behind opponents with remarkable consistency. He is a threat to any opposition and his performance will define Senegal’s performance in matches.

Striker: Emilio Nsue (Equatorial Guinea)

Nsue, one of the elder statesmen of the competition at the age of 34, has been the most prolific striker in the tournament with five goals scored from seven shots on target. Nsue has played in all three group matches, featuring for 250 minutes. Nsue leads the charts and if his form continues as Equatorial Guinea are paired with Guinea in the round of 16, he may get closer to DRC’s Pierre Ndaye’s record of nine goals in a single Afcon, a feat he achieved in the 1974 edition.

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