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Too Good, Too Bad: Africa’s best and worst after opening World Cup round

6:37 PM GMT 24/11/2022
Edouard Mendy Senegal 2022
GOAL highlights some of the finest performers despite an absence of good results and picks out a few players who have underwhelmed

All five representatives from Africa have taken to the pitch but positive results have been a rarity.

None of Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon and Ghana have come away with maximum points in their games although the Atlas Lions and Eagles of Carthage possibly left their opening games with their glasses half-full.

GOAL points out the top performers and below-par showings after the first fixtures.

  • Ismaila Sarr of Senegal.

    Too Good: Ismaila Sarr

    In Sadio Mane’s absence, it was up to Sarr to step up and lead the Senegal attack.

    It may not have been evident with goals or assists but the Watford winger was a menace on the ball against the Netherlands, creating four chances and never afraid to take on his marker.

    Six shot-creating actions in the opening round of games were bettered by only three players — David Raum (eight), Dayot Upamecano (nine) and Kylian Mbappe (10), further highlighting Sarr’s influence.

    Sarr was not a like-for-like replacement for Mane — the Bayern Munich man featured in tandem with Boulaye Dia in Senegal’s tune-up games — but he carried the side’s attack like the talisman would have.

  • EDOUARD MENDY SENEGAL CODY GAKPO NETHERLANDS WORLD CUP 21112022

    Too Bad: Edouard Mendy

    In what was a commendable effort against the Netherlands, Senegal must have been disappointed to lose 2-0 to Louis van Gaal’s crew.

    Mendy was undoubtedly culpable in the defeat, reacting late off his line for Cody Gakpo’s opener and making a hash of Memphis Depay’s tame effort which fell to Davy Klaassen to double the Dutch’s advantage.

    The Chelsea goalkeeper had been in questionable form all year and Monday’s errors represented a nadir for the custodian.

  • FW_Youssef Msakni

    Too Good: Youssef Msakni

    For 45 minutes when Tunisia thrived at the Education City Stadium against Denmark, Msakni was one of the North Africans’ best players.

    The winger’s aggressive ball-carrying and dribbling worried the Danes and he fashioned the Eagles of Carthage’s best opening in the goalless encounter.

    Jalel Kadri’s team could look at the positives from the 0-0 draw with Denmark and their flying winger will be key to reaching the Round of 16.

  • Sofiane Boufal of Morocco.

    Too Bad: Sofiane Boufal

    The wide attacker had a game to forget despite Morocco’s commendable 0-0 result against Croatia.

    Boufal lasted only 65 minutes before his withdrawal, owing to the Atlas Lions requiring a different approach as the European nation forced them back and the winger getting little joy in his tussles and attempts to make things happen in the attacking third.

    The former Southampton man can be a difference-maker on his day, but he could not produce sparks in Wednesday’s stalemate.

  • Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

    Too Good: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

    Even though Cameroon were defeated by Switzerland on Thursday, the in-form Bayern Munich man was one of the Indomitable Lions’ better players.

    Choupo-Moting linked play well and combined with teammates smoothly before his withdrawal with 15 minutes remaining.

    Indeed, the Central African nation lacked any sort of coherence after Vincent Aboubakar’s introduction and Rigobert Song may rue his decision-making as his side chased the game.

  • Karl Toko Ekambi Cameroon.

    Too Bad: Karl Toko Ekambi

    Toko Ekambi was meant to be one of Cameroon’s go-to forwards at the World Cup but he was subdued in the Indomitable Lions’ defeat by Switzerland.

    The forward’s wrong execution of the Central African nation’s best chance of the opening half saw Rigobert Song’s crew miss a chance to edge ahead and the Olympique Lyon man offered far little in the attacking third compared to Bryan Mbeumo and Choupo-Moting.

    Unsurprisingly replaced with 16 minutes remaining.

  • Too Good: Mohammed Kudus

    Throughout Ghana’s tepid attacking showing in the first half against Portugal, it was obvious the plan was to get Kudus in pockets of space to allow him to drive forward aggressively.

    This seldom materialised in the opening 45 minutes but the Ajax man got on the ball and carried it towards the Selecao goal after the interlude.

    This gave the Black Stars the much-needed self-belief in the second half and while their showing ultimately ended in a 3-2 defeat against the European nation, Kudus’ showing when Ghana needed someone to show something different gives Otto Addo’s team some needed assuredness heading into the rest of their group stage campaign.