Goal.com picks the best players and teams from around the continent based on their performances during last month’s World Cup qualifying fixtures
Goal.com’s rating for this month focuses essentially on the 2014 World Cup qualifying games played across Africa in June during which some players excelled individually in helping their respective teams sustain their campaign while establishing for themselves a fresh continental status.
With one match day left to conclude the second round of the qualifying, a number of teams have secured enough points to progress to the third and final round, while a couple others brightened their chances of making the final 10-team list after crossing out their deficits in points from previous match days.
Goal.com takes a look at these achievements from individual players and teams at the just concluded World Cup qualifying fixtures.
|African Player of the Month | Mohamed Salah
Club: FC Bale
After winning the Caf Most Promising African Talent of the Year in 2012, Mohamed Salah maintained steadiness in his improvement both at his Swiss club FC Bale and national team, winning completely the heart of the Pharaohs’ coach Bob Bradley, who has described the young man as the new hope of the country’s football and an indispensable figure in his current squad.
Salah’s sharp pace and ability to keep the ball at his feet while meandering through the flanks have been able to contribute to his sides’ recent successes at goalmouth. Even while he mostly drives his finish in a solo effort to the back net he also provides defence-splitting assists which has greatly ameliorated his image as a selfish forward.
Mohamed Salah is one of the two top scorers of the 2014 African World Cup qualifying with five goals, four of which were realised in the month of June including a hat trick against Zimbabwe and Egypt’s lone-goal winner over Mozambique. He says he will do his best to help the Pharaohs return to the World Cup finals after their last participation in 1990.
Islam Slimani (Algeria & CR Belouizdad)
Islam Slimani has been the pivot of the Algeria attacking line in the World Cup qualifying campaign due to his ability to use speed and movement to open lethal counter-attacks and exploit spaces created in the opposition’s defence. His two-goal contribution was crucial to the Fennec Foxes’ 3-1 away win over Benin early June, which greased the North Africans’ wheels to the top of Group H.
Saladin Said (Ethiopia & Lierse S.K.)
Saladin Said, who joined Belgian club Lierse this year, has hugely contributed to Ethiopia’s impressive performance at the ongoing World Cup qualifying campaign by not only scoring at least one goal in nearly every outing, but also helping the Walia Antelopes exercise counter pressure on the back half of opposing teams. He is among the six players who have recorded four goals each already in the campaign to stay a step behind the two current top scorers Islam Slimani and Mohamed Salah.
Asamoah Gyan (Ghana & Al Ain FC)
Ghana turned the tide to retake Group D leadership and are now favoured as they host Zambia in the group’s decider next September. Asamoah Gyan’s contribution to this achievement during the Black Stars’ two fixtures in June cannot be neglected, as his brace against Sudan in Omdurman heaped the pressure on the Chipolopolo while he wrapped up his side’s 2-0 win over Lesotho to smooth Ghana’s path to the top of the lot.
|African Team of the Month | Egypt
After failing to qualify for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, which cast doubt on the possibility of their return to continental scene any time soon, Egypt took a turn for the better in the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign by recording a flawless run in the second round, wrapping up with the 15 possible points to clinch their group’s spot to the next round.
The Pharaohs also have two players on the campaign’s top scorer list. Mohamed Salah and Mohamed Aboutrika, who have scored five and four goals respectively, are the only men from one team in the group of eight scorers who are currently dominating the table.
The North African side played two away fixtures in June, winning both, against Zimbabwe 4-2 and Mozambique 1-0, signalling the resurgence of the typical team dreaded by nearly every other in the past on the continent.
Ethiopia claimed victories in their two World Cup qualifying fixtures in June, against Botswana 2-1 and South Africa on the same score to snatch Group A’s berth to the third round. Although the Walia Antelopes have lost points for fielding a suspended player against Botswana, the team’s exploit against Bafana Bafana was what drew admiration for the Ethiopians from across the continent.
Burkina Faso had three points coming into June’s hostilities while leaders of their Group E Congo had nine points. After stunning the Red Devils 1-0 at home in Point Noire and crushing Niger 4-1, the Stallions leapt to second place with nine points and now trailing Congo by just one.
Ghana were among the few teams that clinched two away wins in the qualifying campaign in June. Prevailing against Sudan was a laudable achievement for the Black Stars who could have compounded their campaign had the Falcons of Jediane got the upper hand. Beating Lesotho 2-0 later on improved their status in Group D which Ghana now lead with 12 points, however with Zambia still hot on their heels on 11 points.
Do you agree with Goal.com's African Player and Team of the Month awards for June? Leave your comments below.