Best players at AFCON 2023: From Victor Osimhen to Seko Fofana and South Africa's penalty-saving expert

The 34th edition of Africa's biggest sporting festival came to an end at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan with the Ivory Coast winning on home soil.
Some of the best players from the AFCONSome of the best players from the AFCON
Some of the best players from the AFCON

The Ivory Coast have been crowned the champions of Africa for the third time after they beat favourites Nigeria to win the AFCON in Abidjan on Sunday evening. The Elephants had to do it the hard way after coming from a goal down to win it 2-1.

This tournament had everything in it and after 52 matches, 119 goals, great comebacks, major upsets, tears, tears of joy, great refereeing, Pukas-worthy goals and great goalkeeping, below are the players who leave the competition as absolute stars and will be remembered whenever AFCON 2023 is mentioned.

Ronwen Williams

The Mamelodi Sundowns shot-stopper could not lead South Africa to AFCON glory but he's won the hearts of many across the globe with his heroics throughout the competition. In seven games, Williams kept five clean sheets.

His biggest performance came in the quarter-final win over Cape Verde when he saved 4 penalties in the shootout, a world record in a major tournament. Williams also saved another two in the bronze medal match to ensure the Bafana Bafana team returned to Pretoria with a medal. For a player who was relatively unknown before a ball was kicked in Cote 'd'Ivoire, he left the tournament as one of the true stars of AFCON 2023.

Sekou Fofana

Fofana has been the engine of the host nation. He also scored the first of the 116 goals netted at the AFCON 2023. He was the best player on the field against Guinea Bissau to set the tone for what was going to be a memorable competition for the Elephants.

The Al Nassr midfielder's importance to his country was highlighted throughout the competition, when he played poorly, Cote d'Ivoire lost and when he dominated games, they won. To lead this team to AFCON triumph is a testament to his skill but also attitude and commitment. He's made his mark on home soil.

Victor Osimhen

The reigning African Footballer of the Year has scored only one goal so far, but he’s proven that a striker doesn't necessarily need goals to be celebrated. In every single game Osimhen has played out there, he's made sure he's covered every blade of grass. 

The Chelsea and Arsenal target would have been forgiven if he wanted to be selfish but he put the overall good of the team above his interest so much that he gladly passed on penalty-taking duties to William Troost-Ekong.

He was the player who won the penalty that gave Nigeria the lead against South Africa and eventually took them to the final. He came into the tournament with a reputation as one of the best strikers in Europe and no doubt that scoring once a goal would hurt him but Nigeria would not have even gotten to the final if he was not there.

William Troost-Ekong

The Super Eagles captain deserves all the praise for guiding what looked like a sinking ship a few months ago the final of the African Cup of Nations. His organizational skills at the heart of Nigeria's three-man backline was nothing short of exceptional. 

It’s no surprise that Nigeria conceded four goals all tournament but two unfortunately two came in the final. Troost-Ekong even added scoring abilities to his game and scored a brilliant header to open the scoring in the final. He showed incredible composure to beat South African penalty kick expert Ronwen Williams in the semifinals.

The way he handled his nerves to also net his kick during the shootout was just brilliant. Throughout the competition, Nigeria showed strength, determination and bravery and no player epitomised that than the former Watford man.

Ademola Lookman

Operating from the wing in a 3-4-3 formation, Ademola Lookman has scored three goals in what was his debut African Cup of Nations. But Lookman has been more than just goals. His relentless running, the sacrifices he's made to his game and just the fire in his eyes has been inspiring. He tracked back and just never knew when he was beaten. For a player who was desperate to play for England, he's handled playing for the Super Eagles very well.

Simon Adingra

What a tournament the Brighton and Hove man has had. He started the competition injured when he did get going he was unstoppable. Influenced the win against Mali and got two assists against Nigeria in the final. Young player of the tournament.

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