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AFCON 2023 – Team Of The Tournament

As the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) reached its final game on Sunday evening between host and eventual winners Ivory Coast.


As the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) reached its final game on Sunday evening between host and eventual winners Ivory Coast, it allows an opportune moment to reflect on the standout performers who have graced this year’s tournament. Amidst the thrills, spills, and dramatic moments, certain players have shone brighter than the rest, earning their place in the AFCON 2023 Best XI from a statistical point of view.

This 2023 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations was one of the most exciting tournaments of late with underdog teams going further than many people would have expected. Even the hosts – Ivory Coast kept their fans on the edge of their seats the entire tournament. According to Opta, “Ivory Coast spent only 18.8% of match time in a winning position – 145 minutes, 39 seconds in total. That was less than half that of Nigeria (39.4%)” – who they beat in the final on Sunday evening. This is our Team of the Tournament.

Goalkeeper: Ronwen Williams (South Africa)

Mamelodi Sundowns and Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Ronwen Williams is in goal for his heroic efforts to keep South Africa in the tournament on numerous occasions. Williams was the hero as South Africa edged out Cape Verde 2-1 in a tense penalty shootout to reach the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals. The Bafana Bafana goalkeeper saved four spot-kicks in a dramatic climax in Yamoussoukro as his nation booked a last-four date with Nigeria. Moreover, he saved over 4xG in the tournament, at least double the next-best keeper.

A very close second has to go to fellow DSTV Premiership goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali (Chippa United) for his performance in the Super Eagles’ goal.

Left-Back: Arthur Masuaku (DR Congo)

Former West Ham United defender Arthur Masuaku showcased his defensive prowess and offensive flair while marshaling the left side of DR Congo’s defense. His consistent performances, including a vital goal in the knockout stages against Guinea, earned him a spot. A close second has to go to Bafana Bafana’s Aubrey Modiba.

Centre-Backs: William Troost-Ekong (Nigeria) & Evan N’dicka (Ivory Coast)

Troost-Ekong exhibited strong leadership and defensive solidity, even converting crucial penalties for his side. On the other hand, Evan N’dicka emerged as the defensive linchpin for Ivory Coast, showcasing exceptional skills amidst a roster of formidable defenders. He had many different partners at his side as Ivory Coast went on to lift the title.

Right-Back: Ola Aina (Nigeria)

Despite a penalty miss in the shootout against South Africa, Ola Aina’s overall campaign for Nigeria, particularly in defense, merits recognition. His 10 tackles won, 6 interceptions and 28 ball recoveries were pivotal in Nigeria’s journey to the final.

Midfielders: Teboho Mokoena (South Africa), Frank Onyeka (Nigeria), Franck Kessie (Ivory Coast)

It’s hard to imagine that Tebhoho Mokoena would stay at DSTV Premiership side Mamelodi Sundowns after the end of the 2023/24 season. His midfield mastery anchored South Africa’s gameplay, dictating the tempo and contributing crucial goals, especially that 90th-minute free-kick against 2023 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco.

Another Nigerian who showed his worth was Nigerian defensive midfielder Frank Onyeka. His 10 tackles won, 11 interceptions, and 38 ball recoveries were a key element in his defensive contributions in the middle of the park.

Franck Kessie’s impact was also undeniable, with the Ivorian at the centre of many pivotal moments throughout the tournament, including the crucial penalty kick against Senegal in the Round of 16 to keep their trophy hopes alive. His equaliser in the final could not have been better timed.

Forwards: Ademola Lookman (Nigeria), Emilio Nsue (Equatorial Guinea), Percy Tau (South Africa)

Ademola Lookman dazzled on the flank for Nigeria, providing assists and goals at crucial junctures, igniting Nigeria’s attack. He ended the tournament as the player with the highest number of chances created (10) and three goals.

For many, Victor Osimhen would have been one of the headline names and despite facing setbacks with disallowed goals, he led Nigeria’s forward line with tireless work rate and incisive runs. However, based on the stats, the star striker at AFCON 2023 has to go to Equatorial Guinea and top scorer Emilio Nsue. The forward man scored five goals off eight shots and 2.68 xG from just 342 minutes. That is the equivalent of a goal every 68 minutes.

Percy Tau, who plays his club football with Egyptian giants Al Ahly SC, was instrumental in South Africa’s offensive charge to finish third. He showed why he’s hailed as one of the continent’s premier talents, with his ability to carry the ball, creating shot-ending actions for this Bafana Bafana team-mates. He was also unfortunate not to score based on his 10 shots of which five were on target (50%).

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