AFCON Worst XI: Super Eagles star tops the list of disappointing players in Egypt

The 2019 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) came to a thrilling end on Friday, 19th of July after the Desert Foxes of Algeria claimed the title by defeating the Teranga Lions of Senegal. The Super Eagles of Nigeria claimed the bronze medal after beating Tunisia in the third-place playoff.

Baghdad Bounedjah of Algeria celebrates goal with teammates during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals, Final match between Senegal and Algeria at Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt on 19 July 2019 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

While the celebrations are still ongoing in Algeria, Daily Advent highlights the players that did not perform up to the standards expected of them at the tournament:

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Aishi Manula| Tanzania | Goalkeeper

The goalkeeper was part of the history-making Taifa Stars who qualified for the first AFCON Finals in the country’s history under the management of Emmanuel Amuneke. However, the Simba FC star had a tournament to forget as a poor defensive record saw the East Africans exit the tournament at the first round. Aishi conceded five goals in the first two games, both of which ended in defeat.

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Manula was the commander of the defence which turned out to be the worst in the tournament. He might have been a bit unlucky with the quality of the opposition he faced while he was let down by his defenders. However, he did not look threatening in goal and attackers were not afraid to try shots from long range.

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Mamadou Cande | Guinea Bissau | Left-Back

The Santa Clara defender had enjoyed a decent season in the Portuguese Premier Division but his hype was dulled at the tournament as he was part of a defence that did not perform excellently in Egypt. Cande failed to help his team whenever they moved forward in attack and his few runs forward left them vulnerable at the back.

He committed several unnecessary fouls in the tournament and picked up a yellow card in their final game against the Black Stars of Ghana. Guinea Bissau conceded four goals in three games and failed to score a single goal. It is no surprise that they were eliminated from the tournament after the group stage and he featured in all their games.

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John Boye| Ghana | Defender

The FC Metz defender let his teammates down in the opening fixture of the Black Stars when they faced the Benin Republic. Boye, who had been tipped to be the rock on which Ghana could rest their title challenge was sent off following two bookable offences. The second yellow card was absolutely unnecessary and proved costly as Benin equalized a few moments later.

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His recklessness also ensured that he missed out on the important clash with Cameroon. Boye was present in the final games of the Black Stars while they were in Egypt. He was also in trouble in the round of 16 tie against the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia and was unable to prevent the North-Africans from progressing to the last 8. He was lucky not to be sent off in the game.

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David Mwantika| Tanzania | Defender

The 30-year-old experienced defender was the core of what turned out to be the worst defence in the AFCON 2019. Mwantika featured in all three games as the Taifa stars let in eight goals in three games in Egypt. It is not surprising that the Taifa Stars were eliminated in the first round of the tournament.


Mwantika would feel more disappointed because he was the captain of his side. He also committed fouls in dangerous areas to put his team at risk during the tournament picking up a yellow card in the first half against Kenya. He got subbed off by the coach in Tanzania’s final game even with his side chasing the game. This might have been to give the younger players a chance or to limit the damage.

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Moussa Wague | Senegal | Right-back

The Barcelona defender had been in the limelight ahead of the tournament because of his performances with the Barcelona juvenile team in the course of the football season. He has even been touted to break into the first team and rival Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto for a starting shirt.

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Wague had also scored for the Teranga Lions in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia so it was a bit shocking to find him dropped to the bench after a woeful display on his first two appearances at the tournament. He was washed, rinsed, and turned inside out against the Desert Foxes of Algeria and Aliou Cisse had no choice but to drop the underperforming La Liga star to the bench for the rest of AFCON.

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Gael Bigirimana | Burundi | Midfielder

The former Premier League midfielder was the anchor of the Burundi midfield but was almost always missing during all the games he featured in at the tournament.

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Bigirimana might not have been helped by the fact that the coach needed him to play in different positions in the midfield during the tournament and he struggled throughout. Burundi were eliminated at the group stage of the tournament after losing all three games at the group stages where they conceded four goals and scored none.

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Naby Keita| Guinea | Midfielder

Keita was a part of the incredible Liverpool side that won the UEFA Champions League in June before he was judged fit enough to represent his nation at the AFCON Finals. However, his performances in Egypt were nothing to write home about and he might have been better off at home.

He was bullied off the park by Oghenekaro Etebo who plays for Championship side Stoke City when the Super Eagles of Nigeria played with Guinea in the second game of the tournament.

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With the pedigree of a European Champion, a lot was expected of Keita as his presence in the middle of the park should have put the fear of God in the minds of his opponents. His Liverpool teammates; Mane, and Salah were impressive for their respective nations with the Senegalese reaching the finals but Keita would probably regret making the trip to Egypt as his injuries might have worsened.

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Hakim Ziyech | Morroco | Midfielder

The Ajax winger was one of the best players in the last European season as he helped the Dutch side win the League and Cup double and his strong performances helped them reach the UEFA Champions League semi-final where they lost narrowly to Tottenham. He would have been hoping to bring that hot form to Egypt but he was one of the most disappointing stars at AFCON.

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Ziyech had a chance to put the Atlas Lions into the quarter-finals but his missed stoppage-time penalty against Benin hurt Herve Renard’s team dearly as they eventually succumbed to the Squirrels in a shootout in the last 16. While penalties might be a game of luck, he did not hit the target in the last minute of regular time and Morrocans may find it hard to forgive him for his performance.

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Nicholas Pepe| Cote d’Ivoire | Forward

Pepe arrived in Egypt amid so much hype as one of the best talents from the tournament. His performances in the French Ligue 1 was so impressive that he was linked with a potential move to European giants Barcelona before the start of the AFCON tournament. The Ivorian forward failed to find the net throughout the tournament.

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His performances upfront were not particularly impressive as Jonathan Kodija and Wilfred Zaha were the focal points of the Ivorian attack despite the fact that Pepe had a better season in Europe. His quality is still amazing as Manchester United are reportedly desperate to secure his services despite his poor performance at the AFCON tournament.

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Mbaye Hamady Niang| Senegal | Forward

Niang was supposed to be the focal point of attack for the Teranga Lions of Senegal, a side heavily tipped to win this edition of the tournament. However, the former AC Milan striker failed to hit the back of the net throughout the tournament as Senegal reached the final of the tournament.

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Ahmed Musa | Nigeria | Forward

The Super Eagles Vice Captain featured in all games of the tournament and he was one of the most experienced players in the squad of the three-time AFCON champions. Although the West Africans reached the semi-finals of the tournament and claimed the Bronze medal, the former Leicester City man did not perform to the high standards expected of him.

Musa did not score a single goal throughout his stay in Egypt and he provided only one goal after the ball came off his chest for Ighalo to score the equalizer against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. The pacy winger failed to unlock defences with his trademark runs in the latter stages of the tournament and his delivery was poor on the few occasions that he did.

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Clarence Seedorf | Cameroon | Coach

The former AC Milan player was handed the project of defending Cameroon’s Africa Cup of Nations title but the Indomitable Lions saw themselves knocked out in the Last 16 by bitter rivals, Super Eagles of Nigeria. Seedorf’s coaching credentials took another hit as the former midfielder had already experienced disappointment at the helm of AC Milan, Deportivo La Coruna. He was sacked barely a week after Cameroon’s exit from AFCON.