Picking an African Nations Championship team of the group stage

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After the conclusion of the group stages, Goal looks back over the CHAN so far and picks the Dream XI of the CHAN 2018 group stage

  1. #1 Goalkeeper: Loydt Kazapua

    Namibia have been praised for their defensive organisation during this tournament, and indeed, they’ve been a well-drilled unit who have stymied the space for opponents and kept their concentration admirably. However, particularly in their second game—the late victory over Uganda—they were kept in the contest by their goalkeeper Kazapua. He made several key stops to win the Man of the Match award, and conceded just once in three group-stage games. He’ll be tested to the limit by Morocco in the next round.
  2. #2 Right-back: Mohamed Nahiri

    Just edging out the impressive Osas Okoro of Nigeria, Nahiri makes the cut based on several fine displays for Morocco. He particularly looked the part against a Mauritania side in the opener, charging forward down the right flank and delivering a series of teasing crosses. Nahiri found the net in a pre-tournament game against Cameroon, and don’t be surprised if he bags another during the knockout stages.
  3. #3 Centre-back: Nayef Aguerd

    While Morocco’s attacking players have largely caught the eye so far this tournament, Aguerd also makes the cut following a series of excellent displays so far. The 21-year-old is the complete package as a centre-back, offering composure in possession, physicality and pace, and is the only player to have started all three of the Atlas Lions’ matches. He has the potential to be the tournament’s breakout star.
  4. #4 Centre-back: Thierry Manzi

    Unfortunate to go home after three games are Rwanda, for whom Manzi has arguably been their stand-out performer. As well as scoring the winner in the second group game against Equatorial Guinea with a fine header, the defender was also part of a defensive unit that went over 270 minutes without conceding a goal. He was a fine aerial presence as the Amavubi kept clean sheets against Nigeria and Nzalang Nacional, and their resolve was only finally broken at the death against Libya to send them home before the knockouts.
  5. #5 Left-back: Fackson Kapumbu

    Isaac Muleme of Uganda has also caught the eye despite the Cranes’ first-round exit, but we have to give the nod to Kapumbu. The powerful left-back has been a dynamic presence going forward, and while his attacking intent may leave Zambia open against tougher challenges to come, he’s been a key attacking weapon so far this tournament. There was some fluke about his goal against Uganda, but Kapumbu has shown why he’s one of the most highly rated full-backs in Africa.

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    #6 Centre-midfield: Salaheddine Saidi

    Saidi is one of two Moroccan players in this team who have made the cut despite picking up group-stage injuries. Saidi has forged a fine partnership with the more defensive Mehdi Barrahma, and has been given licence to press forward and support the attacking line. He found the net in the opener against Mauritania, and will be a valuable asset when he returns to action during the latter stages.  
  7. #7 Centre-midfield: Dayo Ojo

    Ojo didn’t start Nigeria’s first two matches, but he added vitality to the Super Eagles after coming off the bench against Libya before earning a starting spot against Equatorial Guinea. Ojo vindicated Salisu Yusuf’s decision to axe Rabiu Ali when he scored stunning goal against the Nzalang Nacional, and controlled the midfield in a way the veteran hadn’t. He has to keep his spot against Angola.

  8. #8 Right wing: Ernest Mbewe

    Mbewe has to make the cut after being one of a handful of stand-out performers from the first round of matches. His key asset—searing pace—terrorised the Ugandan defence as he contributed the assist for Lazarous Kambole’s opener, and his dribbling also cause problems for the backlines of both the Ivory Coast and Namibia. A move to Europe beckons imminently.
  9. #9 Left wing: Mohamed Aleyat

    Just edging out Angola’s Va is Aleyat, even though he was one of several Libyan players who underperformed in the Mediterranean Knights’ defeat by Nigeria. The wideman appeared short of fitness in this contest, and it was a far cry from his opening devastation of Equatorial Guinea in which he contributed a hat-trick of assists. He was withdrawn early in the second half against Rwanda, and should be fresh for the quarter-final against Congo-Brazzavill
  10. #10 Attacking midfield: Abdelilah Hafidi

    Hafidi only played one full match, but the playmaker delivered an outstanding performance—contributing three assists—as Morocco put Mauritania to the sword. He was predictably kicked out of the game by Guinea, being replaced early on, and will miss the hosts’ quarter-final with Namibia. Could he return in the final four to lead the Atlas Lions to glory?
  11. #11 Striker: Ayoub El Kaabi

    How could we plump for anyone other than El Kaabi?! He’s the tournament top scorer so far with five goals, having netted twice in the 4-0 victory over Mauriania and a hat-trick in the 3-1 triumph over Guinea. His physicality, pace and finishing ability have ensured that he’s been a handful for Group A defences, and it will be intriguing to see whether the organised Namibian backline can keep him at bay in the quarters.