Goal.com picks the best players and teams from around the continent with a focus on the just concluded 2013 Afcon qualifying and the closing Caf Champions League
The month of October was a festive season for football fans around the continent as fingers remained crossed to see the 15 teams emerge and join hosts South Africa at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. And while there were screams of joy and pain by the end of the campaign, another stage had already been set for next month’s final of the Caf Champions League following the conclusion of the semifinals.
Goal.com takes a look at the performances of a selection of players in the above competitions and the teams that distinguished themselves from others.
|African Player of the Month | Didier Drogba
Country: Cote D'Ivoire
Club: Shanghai Shenhua
Didier Drogba has once more proved he remains indispensable as a leader and top scorer to Cote D’Ivoire, following his crucial contribution to the Elephants’ qualification for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations despite a talent-rich Senegal outfit that crossed their path in the final qualifying round.
After a modest showing in Abidjan during the first leg that ended with a fortuitous 4-2 in favour of the hosts, the return leg was widely opened to doubt, as some 60,000 home fans were being prepped up to cheer Senegal to an obligatory victory. But the former Chelsea talisman quickly settled matters with two successive goals that plunged the Leopold Senghor Stadium and the city of Dakar into an unforgettable all-night chaos.
With many local fans and pundits still holding grudges against the two-time Africa Footballer of the Year for bungling a golden penalty kick that could have helped bring home the 2012 Afcon trophy, Drogba’s latest outing has lit hope in many ahead of next year’s showpiece and all eyes would surely be on him once more to help break the lingering trophy-drought jinx on the nation’s best football squad in history.
Dieumerci Mbokani (DR Congo & Anderlecht)
The Democratic Republic of Congo are returning to the continental scene seven years after their last appearance at the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations. The team has experienced hard times since then prompting the authorities to impose several reforms that saw the employment and sacking of four coaches. But one of the recent key figures of the recovering outfit is Dieumerci Mbokani of Belgian Pro League champions Anderlecht.
The 26-year-old striker has brought enormous motivation and inspiration to the Leopards fold off late, according to his team mates and new coach Frenchman Claude Le Roy. He hugely contributed to DR Congo’s brilliant campaign in the 2013 Afcon qualifying, which climaxed in their 5-2 win on aggregate over Equatorial Guinea, with Mbokani registering two goals to become one of the nine top scorers of the tournament.
Adane Girma (Ethiopia & Saint George SA)
Adane Girma played a vital role in Ethiopia’s qualification to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, both in front of the goal and in the defence. The 27-year-old midfielder, whose presence is regularly felt around the field of play due to his versatility in delivering defence-splitting passes and creating goal-scoring opportunities as well as bringing the ball out of the defence, scored in almost all of the Black Lions’ outing during the qualifying campaign, with his two goals during the final round helping his side to narrowly surmount a plucky Sudanese outfit on a 5-5 aggregate, which was eventually decided by away goal advantage.
Mohamed Nagy – Gedo (Egypt & Al Ahly)
Mohamed Nagy, popularly known as Gedo, could be thanked for Al Ahly’s ticket to the final of the 2012 Caf Champions League, four years after the record winners clinched their sixth title in 2008. The 26-year-old Egypt international helped the Red Devils share the spoils with Nigeria’s Sunshine Stars on a 3-3 stalemate in the semifinal first leg before scoring the only goal in the reverse fixture that secured their place in the final. Gedo was outstanding during both encounters that took place in the month of October.
|African Team of the Month | Cape Verde
Cape Verde pulled off a shook in the third round of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nation after they edged continental giants Cameroon on a 3-2 aggregate to qualify for their first Afcon finals. The Islanders, long considered as minnows, proved many pundits wrong by handing the Indomitable Lions a shocking two-goal defeat in the first leg played in Praia. With the return of Samuel Eto’o ahead of the second leg, local supporters, officials and the media became upbeat about the Yaounde meeting.
Unfortunately, Heldon Ramos’ early goal turned the tide for the four-time champions, who eventually toiled to overturn the deficit and scrape a narrow 2-1 win but falling short of carrying it off on aggregate, thus allowing the Blue Sharks to grab a historic Afcon qualification, reminiscent of Niger’s exploit in the 2012 qualifying campaign.
Besides the vital away goal scored against Cameroon, Cape Verde’s ability to hold their ground at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium before some 40,000 home fans, whose support the Lions had largely counted on, is commendable and maybe sign of the birth of a new team that could bring little and great glories in the near future.
Ethiopia are returning to the competition 30 years after their last participation in 1982. The onetime continental top flights won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1962 and have also finished second, third and fourth, but they slipped into oblivion thereafter following poor funding of the national team and unproductive policies. However, the Black Lions emerged with a more organised and determined squad during the 2013 Afcon qualifying campaign, backed by a consistent budget, which contributed to their triumph over Sudan in the final round.
After failing to reach the 2012 Afcon, Algeria, who have participated in 14 editions including a victory in 1990, are back to the scene and are been tipped as one of the teams to beat in the competition. Coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who came on board in June 2011, have been able to build on the group’s proven experience while successfully integrating young players, who impressively stopped Libya in the 2013 Afcon qualifying by a home and away 3-0 win to book their place.
Togo have thankfully recovered from years of crises and mishaps that had awfully kept the team from continental meetings. Emmanuel Adebayor’s return to the fold did not only inspire his team mates but rekindled hopes for the nation’s football. The Sparrow Hawks returned with a significant 1-1 draw against Gabon in the first leg of the 2013 Afcon final qualifying round, and vibrantly consolidated that outcome with a 2-1 win in the return leg played in Lome to knock the very hopeful Panthers from the campaign, with Adebayor’s goal warmly reconciling him with the public.
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