Afcon: Picking an African dream team who never won the Nations Cup

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Ben Radford /Allsport
Which of the continent’s all-time greats never got their hands on Africa’s biggest prize?

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    Bruce Grobbelaar

    One of Africa’s most decorated players, Grobbelaar was a key figure in Liverpool’s European Cup final success in 1984, and also won six league titles with the Reds.

    At international level, however, he made little impact despite being capped over 30 times by Rhodesia and then Zimbabwe.

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    Sammy Kuffour

    A Champions League winner with Bayern Munich, where Kuffour also bagged a swathe of Bundesliga titles, the centre-back never won the Nations Cup with Ghana.

    While he was part of the squad that represented the Black Stars at the 2006 World Cup, Kuffour’s career was winding down by the time the West Africans embarked on their consecutive run of Afcon semi-final appearances.

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    Noureddine Naybet

    One of the classiest defenders ever to emerge from Africa, Naybet was once wanted at Manchester United by Sir Alex Ferguson, and wouldn’t have looked out of place in that star-studded side.

    He won La Liga with Deportivo La Coruna in 2000, and featured for Morocco in two World Cups, but never clinched the African crown.

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    Taribo West

    The Pastor won the Olympic gold with Nigeria in 1996, but the closest he ever came to winning the Nations Cup was four years later, when the Super Eagles were defeated by Cameroon in the final.

    At club level, he was a French champion with Auxerre in 1996, and clinched the 1998 Uefa Cup with Internazionale, before going onto represent their city rivals AC.

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    Mahamadou Diarra

    The Mali powerhouse doesn’t get the credit he deserves for the consistent success he enjoyed in Europe with Olympique Lyonnais and Real Madrid.

    Between 2002 and 2008, he won a league championship—either Ligue 1 or La Liga—in each season, and helped end Los Blancos’ wait for a Spanish crown.

    With Mali, however, his four Afcon appearances resulted in two semi-final showings, but never the continental crown.

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    Michael Essien

    Had injuries not so undermined the latter stages of the Bison’s career, perhaps he could have helped the Black Stars over the line at the Nations Cup and transform one of their near misses to a title success.

    While he did represent Ghana at two World Cups—in 2006 and 2014—injuries cost him the chance to feature in their quarter-final run in 2010.

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    Tarek Dhiab

    The Tunisian playmaker was African Footballer of the Year in 1977, and won a heap of honours during a long career with domestic giants Esperance.

    However, while he featured for the Carthage Eagles at the 1978 World Cup—where they became the first African team to win a match—he never managed to win the continent’s top prize with the North African giants.

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    Seydou Keita

    Keita arguably overachieved with Mali, finishing third at the Afcon in 2012 and 2013, although he wasn’t able to take a talented Eagles team into the final.

    At club level, however, his legacy is sealed following his fine exploits with Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.

    He was a serial winner at the Camp Nou, clinching the Champions League twice, three Spanish titles, and a plethora of other honours.

    Keita also finished second in the African Footballer of the Year ranking for 2011.

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    Didier Drogba

    The Chelsea legend won a hatful of honours at Stamford Bridge, and also reached three World Cups with the Ivory Coast, including their first qualification in 2006.

    However, despite being the Afcon’s top scorer in 2012, he never got his hands on the biggest prize, having retired before the Elephants’ triumphant success in Equatorial Guinea in 2015.

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    George Weah

    The only African player to win the Ballon d’Or, but Weah’s honours haul—both at club and international level—didn’t match his supreme talent.

    The Liberia president helped the Lone Stars to reach the Nations Cup on two attempts, but it was always going to be beyond him to drag them to the continental title.

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    Nwankwo Kanu

    Despite a remarkable honours haul, including the Champions League, the Uefa Cup, the Premier League, and an Olympic gold, Kanu never won the Afcon.

    He represented the Super Eagles at three World Cups, but his failure to conquer the continent with Nigeria remains a black mark on his record!