MTN 315: The Best of July

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Mark RALSTON
Goal picks out the ‘MTN 315’ for July, reviewing the best of the last 30 days of football

  1. MTN 315

    Goal is delighted to introduce our new MTN 315 feature, reviewing the best of football over the last month.

    In this series, we’ll pick out three teams, one coach and five players who have impressed us over the previous 30 days of football.

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    Algeria

    Where else can we start but with Algeria?

    Les Fennecs clinched the Africa Cup of Nations crown on July 19, drawing to a close a magnificent campaign in which they were the continent’s finest side in Egypt.

    Winning their second African title in the home of their fiercest rivals was a magnificent achievement, and their 1-0 victory over Senegal in the final was a fitting end to the tournament.

  3. Nigeria

    The Super Eagles fell short in the semi-final of the Nations Cup, when they were defeated 2-1 by Algeria—and a late Riyad Mahrez free kick—but they can still be proud of themselves after a decent campaign.

    They ended on a high, by defeating Tunisia 1-0 in the third-placed playoff in Cairo, while their victories over South Africa and Cameroon were memorable moments in which Gernot Rohr’s talented charges realised their potential.

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    Tottenham Hotspur

    While some of Europe’s giants—notably Real Madrid and Liverpool—have endured a tough time during preseason, Spurs have delivered a series of excellent performances in recent weeks.

    They were defeated by Manchester United, but they still dispatched Juventus in an excellent showing, saw off troubled Real, and then clinched the Audi Cup after defeating Bayern Munich on penalties.

    Could Mauricio Pochettino’s side be genuine title contenders this term?

     

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    Djamel Belmadi

    Who else could be our coach of the month but Belmadi?

    The Algerian manager was nominated for the Best Fifa Football Awards—as one of the top coaches of the last year—after his feats with the Fennecs in Egypt.

    Belmadi negotiated the various challenges of the tournament well, rotating his squad and resting players when required, and also espoused an attacking style that appealed to neutrals.

  6. Johannes Eisele

    Diego Costa

    There haven’t been too many players over the years who have eviscerated Real Madrid as emphatically as Costa did when Los Merengues met Atletico Madrid at the MetLife Stadium on July 26.

    The Spain international scored four goals, including a penalty, as Real found themselves on the receiving end of a 7-3 hammering that made headlines worldwide.

    In true Costa fashion, he was ultimately sent off, but not before leaving a truly lasting impression on Los Blancos’ backline!

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    Eddie Nketiah

    Like Costa, Nketiah is another player who’s caught the eye in the International Champions Cup.

    The Ghanaian wonderkid has capitalised on the playing time he’s been afforded amidst injury concerns for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, responding with a series of fine showings.

    He was also the tournament’s top scorer before Costa’s showing against Real, scoring the winner against Bayern Munich and a double against Fiorentina.

    What kind of role is the wonderkid set to play for Arsenal this term?

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    Odion Ighalo

    Another striker who’s enjoyed a July to remember is Nigeria’s Ighalo, who’s bounced back in style after a tricky World Cup.

    The striker was much maligned after his horror miss against Argentina, as the Super Eagles were eliminated in the group stage in Russia, but he returned to some form during the qualifier.

    In the Afcon proper, he scored five, ending the campaign with the Golden Boot, and netted the winner in the third-placed playoff triumph against Tunisia.

    His performance in the 3-2 victory over Cameroon was his finest in a Nigeria shirt, although the China-based hitman retired from international duty after the tournament.

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    Ismael Bennacer

    While Ighalo won the Afcon Golden Boot, Bennacer almost took a clean sweep with the rest of the honours.

    He won the Player of the Tournament award, was named Young Player of the competition, and also topped the assists chart alongside Franck Kessie.

    His performances in North Africa—as well has his excellent showings in Italy with Empoli last term, when he was among Serie A’s finest dribblers—has prompted interest from AC Milan, although at the time of writing, the midfielder is yet to secure a summer move.

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    Riyad Mahrez

    While Bennacer won the Afcon Player of the Tournament, and while Baghdad Bounedjah scored the winner in the final, there weren’t too many players in the competition who impressed more than Mahrez.

    The defining moment was his winning free kick at the death as Algeria defeated Nigeria 2-1 in the semi-final, but the wideman also caught the eye with his defensive discipline and immense work ethic.

    After a remarkably successful year last term, can the North African build on his continental success and truly make his mark at Manchester City this term?