Goal.com picks the best performers to have taken part in the Africa Cup of Nations tournament over the last three decadesBy Peter Pedroncelli
The 29th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations commences on Saturday when hosts South Africa take on Cape Verde in Johannesburg. The tournament has seen some fantastic matches and unforgettable moments over the years, and Goal.com is here to pick out some of the key players over the last 30 years.
Egypt won three consecutive Africa Cup of Nations tournaments from 2006 to 2010, with Essam El-Hadari playing a crucial role between the posts. His leadership from the back was immense, and he always seemed to come up with the goods when put under pressure.
There have been many great defenders who have written their names into Afcon history, but the contributions of four stand out. Samuel Kuffour had an outstanding career with Ghana, and was was a solid presence at four tournaments, Rigobert Song was a shining light for Cameroon, winning two Nations Cups in 2000 and 2002. Wael Gomaa has been Egypt's defensive linchpin for the last decade, claiming three titles, and Noureddine Naybet established himself as one of Africa's best defenders before retiring as a champion in 2006.
Ahmed Hassan is another part of the Egypt team that won three straight titles between 2006 and 2010, winning the best player award twice. He is the joint-most-capped footballer in history with 184 appearances. No Nigeria player has made more Afcon appearances than 'Jay Jay' Okocha, who won the 1994 edition and also finished second once and third twice. Mohamed Aboutrika is an Egyptian hero, having converted the decisive penalty in the 2006 final shoot-out, and scored the winning goal to hand Egypt the 2008 Afcon crown.
Legendary Ghanaian Abedi Pele made his first tournament appearance in 1982 in Libya, and made more appearances in the competition than anyone else. Samuel Eto'o took part in six finals, won two of them, and still is the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Afcon. Finally, Kalusha Bwalya led Zambia to second place in 1994, months after losing most of his team-mates in a plane crash.