Who were the best-combined XI from an exciting first round of the group stages?
With Egypt, Algeria, Senegal, and reigning champions Cameroon racking up impressive wins, there was plenty of top talents to pick from – but will there be any Black Stars player?
Goalkeeper – Edmore Sibanda (Zimbabwe)
It would have been a walkover for Egypt if Edmore Sibanda had to stand aside and let the host obliterate unfancied Zimbabwe. In fact, the way Sibanda kept the goal on Egypt’s solitary strike was what one expected from the 33-year-old. The veteran goalkeeper finished the game with six saves putting up an incredible performance from the first second to the very last.
Right-Back – Youcef Atal (Algeria)
Algeria started the tournament with a 2-0 victory over Harambee Stars of Kenya, and Atal was arguably the star player on the pitch during the contest. The full-back won his side a penalty and caused great problems with his attacking advances on the right side of attack.
Centre-back – Mahmoud Alaa (Egypt)
Despite Trezeguet earning the victory for Egypt with his goal, the Man of the Match award went to centre-back Mahmoud Alaa following an outstanding defensive performance. The 28-year-old defender made his AFCON debut against Zimbabwe playing alongside Ahmed Hegazi in the heart of the Pharaohs’ defence and helped Egypt keep a vital clean sheet.
Centre-back – Yaya Banana (Cameroon)
Banana scored his first goal in the Africa Cup of Nations with his first shot in the competition. The Olympiacos defender set the tone for Cameroon with his opener as the defending champions went on to win 2-0 against Guinea-Bissau.
Left-Back – Ola Aina (Nigeria)
He made his AFCON debut on Saturday Against the Swallows, and he left his mark in the game with a back-heel that found Odion Ighalo, who got the only goal of the tight encounter. Fuelled by his fine outing against the AFCON debutants, he is now prepared to contest with other national team players for regular appearances going forward.
Midfielder – Anicet Abel (Madagascar)
Anicet Abel managed to equalise the scoreline after heading in a corner against Guinea, writing his name in the history books as the first-ever Malagasy to score in an AFCON tournament.
Midfielder- Krepin Diatta (Senegal)
The 20-year-old was handed his fourth appearance by coach Aliou Cisse in the absence of Liverpool forward Sadio Mane. Diatta rewarded Cisse’s faith in him by sealing the Teranga Lions’ victory with a stunning strike from 18-yards after Keita Balde’s opener. The youngster was recognized for his effort as Man of the Match.
Midfielder – Adama Traoré (Mali)
Mali inflicted a harsh dose of reality on Africa Cup of Nations’ debutants Mauritania. Monaco’s man Adama Traoré was on target as he smacked in the third with a sweet low drive 10 minutes after half-time.
Right-Wing – Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)
Riyad Mahrez led Algeria to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Kenya as they opened their Africa Cup of Nations campaign with a convincing display. Mahrez scored the second just before half-time as he ghosted unmarked into the penalty area to lash in a pass that was pulled back from the byline. Mahrez’s powerful shot took a deflection off the full-back Abud Omar as it flew into the net.
Left-Wing – Mahmoud Trezeguet (Egypt)
In a game that starman Mohammed Salah was missing, Trezeguet was the talisman for Egypt. All the play flowed through him and as a result, it flowed smoothly. Although the way he won the ball back, drove up to the left flank and exchanged passes with Ayman Ashraf before cutting inside one more time to blast the ball into the back of the net was amazing. His overall display was superb.
Striker – Mickaël Poté (Benin)
The Evergreen Benin striker Mickaël Poté scored after 104 seconds and again in the second half as 10-man Ghana were held to a 2-2 draw in a lively Africa Cup of Nations match. Pote darted on to a pass from midfield, held off the challenges of two Black Stars players and poked the ball past goalkeeper Richard Ofori in a stunning start. In the second half down 1-2, the ball was crossed low into the goalmouth and although Ofori got a hand to a close-range strike from Pote, he could not prevent the ball from entering the net.