Sixteen teams composed of 368 players gathered in South Africa for three weeks cut across January and February to vie for the 29th Africa Cup of Nations title that eventually went to Nigeria, who stunned the continent with their determination and sharp focus that smoothed their path towards clinching a third Afcon trophy and signalling the rebirth of the onetime formidable Super Eagles outfit.
Goal.com takes a look at the performances of a selection of players in the above competition and the teams that stood out from others.
|African Player of the Month | Sunday Mba
Club: Warri Wolves
Sunday Mba was hardly known to the general public before the 2013 Africa Cup of Nation, but he is now a household name across the continent following his vital and timely contribution to Nigeria’s overall success at the competition that overwhelmed many people, who now see the 24-year-old midfielder among those carrying the hope of the country’s modern football.
The Warri Wolves player was one of the six locals coach Stephen Keshi took the risk to call up to the national team that had long broken with the tradition of tolerating the home-based legion for top competitions like the Africa Cup of Nations. However, Mba seems to have opened a new trend likely to push coaches and football federations to critically consider the role of their local players in top tournaments.
Mba’s two goals in the quarterfinal against Cote D’Ivoire and the final against Burkina Faso sealed the Super Eagles’ stupendous fate at the South Africa 2013, after a lackluster beginning in the group stage cast doubts on the team’s chances and nearly opened a rift between the coach and his employers.
Mikel Obi (Nigeria & Chelsea)
Mikel Obi played a very important role for Nigeria during the tournament by masterminding the outfit’s set out plans for each game. He tried to maintain possession of the ball, breaking up opposition's attacks, covering the required areas of the pitch as well as initiating the attacking play of team, with an inexhaustible stamina and rage that fuelled the Super Eagles’ collective determination to surmount unfolding hurdles.
Jonathan Pitroipa (Burkina Faso & Stade Rennais)
Jonathan Pitroipa was one of the most dreaded players at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations for coaches and defenders due to his ability to collect, hold and push the ball around with a significant speed and getting behind the defence to deliver crosses into the centre for his attackers. Defenders were always careful in tackling him to avoid committing nasty fouls as he changed his winging position from the left to right flanks while watching out for breaches in the back half. His role for the tournament’s finalists the Stallions earned him the best player recognition.
Aristide Bance (Burkina Faso & FC Augsburg)
Considered even at home as a player that would probably make no much impact during the tournament following his showings in previous editions, Aristide Bance quickly took centre stage for his side after the exit of injured Alain Traore and became the most vibrant tormentor of opposing defence, scoring the equalizer against Ghana to take Burkina Faso through a successful penalty shootout that handed them a historic Afcon final berth. However, his aimless and sometimes sloppy finishing robbed the Stallions a number of opportunities that could have possibly changed their history in the tournament.
|African Team of the Month | Nigeria
Nigeria returned to prominence on the continental scene this year at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations following their worthwhile final victory, and are now positioned as a team to be reckoned with after the 1980 and 1994 champions faded into oblivion for years and even failed to qualify for the previous edition held in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Many pundits have described the set up as youthful, determined and coolheaded, which they believe will take the country’s football to greater heights in the coming years.
Coach Stephen Keshi, a Nigerian and former captain of the Super Eagles, came under fire from local fans and officials after his side was held by Burkina Faso and Zambia in their first two games before overcoming Ethiopia 2-0 in the final group encounter to reach the knockout stage, but without convincing his detractors the team would get anywhere further in the competition.
Their quarterfinal win over Cote D’Ivoire was widely unexpected as the Elephants were tipped as top favourites being the continent’s number team ahead of the tournament. However, their fall to the Nigerians renewed interest in the Super Eagles, who subsequently handed Mali a 4-1 drubbing in the semi-finals to coast to the grand finale against Burkina Faso, who were unable to withstand the individual and collective display of the Vincent Enyeama-led underdogs of the South Africa 2013 that humbled the Stallions 1-0 to clinch a third Afcon title.
Very few people had Burkina Faso in mind as a serious challenger before the 2013 Africa Cup of Nation, following their existing Fifa ranking, general status and performances in previous continental competitions. However, the arrival of former Gambia coach Paul Put seemed to have transformed the hitherto defensive and cowering outfit to a valiant collective force capable of exhibiting their skills with required maturity, focus and stamina, which helped them in overcoming their two major hurdles of the tournament Togo and Ghana and reaching the final for the first time in their history. Although they lost to Nigeria, the Burkinabe didn’t suffer any humiliation all along, and winning silver was a worthwhile recompense for their brilliance in South Africa.
Mali are one of the few national teams on the continent that have maintained constancy in form and results for some years now. Despite the removal of Frenchman Alain Giresse, who led the Eagles to third place at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, his successor and compatriot Patrice Carteron repeated that same result at the South Africa 2013, with a more experienced and composed group that was able to oust the hosts in the quarterfinals and Ghana in the third place match to take home bronze at a time when locals were in need of some respite from the raging war in the West African country.
Cape Verde have been included in this selection following their inspiring outing at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations even though they were putting up their first participation in the finals. The Blue Sharks pulled off a shock in their opener when they held hosts South Africa to a goalless draw before challenging Morocco to a 1-1 draw and then handing Angola a peppery 2-1 defeat in the group’s final match day to qualify for the quarterfinals which they lost to Ghana 2-0 out of inexperience. However, the team’s future would remain bright if players are given the required exposure.
Do you agree with Goal.com's African Player and Team of the Month awards for November? Leave your comments below.