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AFCON 2023: Who Will Win the Best Player of the Tournament

The AFCON tournament is getting to a close on Sunday, and we shall be looking at the favourite to win the best player of the tournament.

The 2023 AFCON Best Player of the Tournament is set to ignite serious debate
The two finalists are most likely to produce the winner after Sunday’s match between the Super Eagle and the Elephant of Ivory Coast.

Nigeria beat a hungry South Africa team in the penalty shoot-outs after a 1-1 full time draw and extra time while Ivory Coast saw off DR Congo with a lone goal in full time to set up a repeat of the group stage clash, which the Super Eagles won.

CAF will give a couple of players individual honours after the final on Sunday.

Who will be given the Golden Ball. Based on previous history, most teams that win the tournament end up having a player to win the best player award.

Losing finalists have also, in the past, won the award, with Christian Atsu (Ghana 2015) and Jonathan Pitroipa (Burkina Faso 2013) being the most recent examples There have also been three cases of bronze medalists winning the award: Jay-Jay Okocha (Nigeria 2004), Kalusha Bwalya (Zambia 1996), and Hassan El-Shazly (Egypt 1963).
Only on two occasions was a player whose team finished fourth being declared the best player of the tournament – Aziz Bouderbala (Morocco 1988) and Laurent Pokou (Ivory Coast 1970). No player has ever won the award if his team didn’t reach the semi-final.

So, it is assumed that a player from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, South Africa, or DR Congo will be in line to replace previous winner Sadio Mane as the player of the tournament.

Here are my top five favourite for the award.

  1. Franck Kessie – Ivory Coast
    The former Barcelona man has been good at this tournament running the midfield, but Ivory Coast shambolic display in the group-stage campaign will work against him, though he rise to the occasion with fantastic displays against Senegal (off the bench), Mali and DR Congo (Man of the Match) put him in good standing among for the award.

4. Victor Osimhen – Nigeria

The reigning African best Player of the Year has only scored once this tournament, but he has been pivotal in Jose Peseiro’s approach. The Napoli striker has been working hard for the team with good hold-up play and good positional awareness. He has won Nigeria two penalties and provided an assist so far. An inspired performance in the final could help him win the award.

3. Ademola Lookman – Nigeria

Ademola Lookman is the leading goalscorer of the remaining team left in this tournament with three goals to his name, the Atalanta attacker can close and surpass the topscorer Emilio Nsue in the final game with couple of goals.
Zambia’s Christopher Katongo was the last player to win both the Golden Boot and Golden Ball.
He’s one of the favourites for the award.

2. Stanley Nwabali – Nigeria
DR Congo’s Kazadi Mwamba became the first and only goalkeeper to date to win AFCON’s best player award in 1968

Nwabali came from nowhere to be one of the favourites for the award with breathtaking performance between the stick.
He leads the goalkeepers in clean sheets (4). His two saves in the shoot-out against South Africa helped his side progress. He’s in for a look in for the award.

  1. William Troost-Ekong – Nigeria
    Cameroon great Rigobert Song and their current coach is the last defender to win the award.

Troost Ekong has been a leader, captain, fantastic, Goalscorer/penalty taker at this tournament with a commanding display at the back.

Troost-Ekong sitting in the middle of Paseiro’s three-man defence has been a rock. They have only conceded twice in the whole tournament, one from the penalty spot.

He has scored two penalties, both in critical times, to keep his country’s quest for a first AFCON title since 2013 going. If Nigeria beat Ivory Coast on Sunday and Troost-Ekong has another decent game and maybe a clean sheet for himself, it will be hard for him to get ignored for the award.

He’s my number one favourite to win the award.

Joseph Laleye is BrandiQ Sports Editor

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