Algerian players celebrate with the AFCON trophy in 2019

Algeria won their second Africa Cup of Nations trophy since 1990 when they triumphed on home turf 29 years ago.

The Fennecs scored through a heavily deflected Baghdad Bounedjah’s first minute goal during the 1-0 victory over West Africans Senegal before a lively gathering at the Cairo international Stadium.

Kawowo Sports’ David Isabirye, after a month long spell in Egypt releases an opinionated exceling eleven players at the biennial championship that for the first time had 24 countries.

The team is assembled in the 4-3-3 set up formation:

Goalkeeper: Adi Rais Cobos Mbolhi (Algeria)

The Algeria number one goalkeeper was exceptional throughout the championship.

Algerian goalkeeper Adi Rais Cobos Mbolhi jumps to collect a routine high ball

Having concluded the group stages unscratched with no single goal conceded, his defence leaked during the knock out stage, conceding against Cote D’Ivoire at the quarter finals and against Nigeria in the semi-finals.

He returned with an outstanding man of the match performance in the final against Senegal.

The Al-Ettifaq Football Club shot-stopper in the Saudi Arabia top flight league was awesome with good defence organization as he was perfect in game reading.

He was strong in the air as he was during one against one situations.

Algeria players celebrate opening goal against Kenya.

Right Back: Youcef Atal (Algeria)

Contemporary right backs dwell on two aspects in equal measure – defence and offense.

During the three group stage matches against Kenya, Tanzania and Senegal as well as the round of 16 contest with Guinea and quarter final, Youcef Atal had already proved that he was by far the best right back at the championship.

Injury however cost Atal his place in the semi-final and final matches.

The OGC Nice player in the French Ligue one tackled well, involved the rest of teammates, showed great aerial presence and ventured well upfront.

Left Back: Coulibaly Wonlo (Cote D’Ivoire)

When you learn that Cote D’Ivoire left back Coulibaly Wonlo plays in the national domestic league, you can doubt.

True, Wonlo, a player at ASEC Mimosa in the Cote D’Ivoire premier league expressed maturity of someone in an exposed league.

He fearless defended against tricky wingers, passed the ball with elegance and could attack to supplement his team’s raids upfront.

Kalidou Koulibaly

Center Half: Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal)

A giant, confident, a leader and intelligent ball playing center half, Kalidou Koulibaly has it all.

The Lions of Teranga defender was outstanding in all Senegal’s matches, apart from the final where he was suspended.

Senegal dearly paid the price for his absence. He remained as solid as the famous Nyero Rocks in Northern Uganda.

Coulibaly was also a leader as he organized the defence line.

Center Half: Mehdi Amine Mouttaqui (Morocco):

The Morocco captain expressed confidence of a typical center forward ready to challenge anything in his midst.

He was simply outstanding with well time tackles, short and long diagonal passes and was so solid in the air.

Madagascar’s Anicet Abel Andrianantenaina races away in celebration

Holding Midfielder: Anicet Abel Andrianantenaina (Madagascar)

Anicet Andrianantenaina was the fulcrum of play for the all-conquering Madagascar team that had a great first time showing at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Ludogorets Razgrad football club midfielder in the Belgium top flight league perfected the basics of the game with ease.

A sublime first touch, quick feet with rocket speed thinking and a great dribbler of the ball, Andrianantenaina found the back of the net too.

He was a joy to watch as Madagascar manvoured through the early stages of the tournament before being knocked out by Tunisia at the quarter finals.

Algerian players during the warm up session

Offensive Midfielder (Right Wing): Ismael Bennacer (Algeria)

Ismael Bennacer features for Empoli Sports Club in the Italian serie A.

His experience mattered a lot for team Algeria and it showed throughout the tournament.

He was fast off the breaks and easily fell back to defend in equal measure.

Bennacer provided the team leadership and direction at a time Riyad Mahrez faded when needed most.

Little wonder, Bennacer, who is being targeted by AC Milan was named as the tournament Most Valuable Player.

Ismael Bennacer was the MVP

Forward:  Baghdad Bounedjah (Algeria)

Baghdad Bounedjah is that Orthodox styled, tall and agile center forward.

The Al Sadd Sports Club striker in the Qatar premier league will assure you of a goal per game if well supplied.

He led the line for Algeria and held the ball well at crucial points when needed.

His star shone brightest with the lucky albeit magical deflected shot in the final against Senegal.

Odion Ighalo scored a double against Cameroon

Forward: Jude Idion Ighalo (Nigeria)

Strikers are best remembered for finding the back of the net in whichever style.

Although abit rigid, Jude Idion Ighalo, 31, scored the goals, five in number to take the top scorers’ accolade.

Sadly, he quit international football after the tournament where Nigeria Super Eagles finished third with bronze medals.

Ighalo scored the lone strike in Nigeria’s slim 1-0 win over Tunisia during the third place play off at the Al Salam Stadium, Cairo.

Morocco’s Youssef En-Nesyri

Forward: Youssef En-Nesyri (Morocco)

Youssef En-Nesyri is another version of those lanky strikers leading the line.

Strong in air as he is on the ground, En-Nesyri scored three goals for team Morocco.

He also had a sublime first touch on the ball.

Sadio Mane shields the ball away from Farouk Miya

Offensive Midfielder (Left Wing): Sadio Mane (Senegal)

Stars are born. A few are made, although the process is tedious.

Sadio Mane was the icon and poster boy on that Senegalese team.

The Liverpool forward missed three penalties and scored three goals as well.

Nevertheless, his direct runs towards the defenders, leadership, explicit finishes and overall involvement of teammates propelled them above many players at the championship.

Honourable Mentions:

Riyad Karim Mahrez (Algeria), Emmanuel Arnold Okwi (Uganda), Ahmed Elmohamady Abdelfattah Aly Eissa (Egypt), Dean Furman (South Africa), Hassen Mouez (Tunisia, Goalkeeper), Samuel Chimerenka Chukwueze (Nigeria), Amir Selmane Rami Bensebaini (Algeria)

David Isabirye is a senior staff writer for Kawowo Sports where he covers most of the major events.

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