Sportsdesk | February 12, 2013
After Nigeria’s 1-0 win over Burkina Faso to win the tournament, Ian Hawkey selects his players who shone in South Africa at Afcon 13.
1: Victor Moses, Nigeria
The winger’s goals took his team beyond the group phase and his skill overcame bumpy surfaces in Nelspruit and Soweto. He used his pace and control at speed to master Mali and Burkina Faso. He chose to represent the Super Eagles rather than England and has now led them to a first African title for 19 years.
2: Jonathan Pitroipa, Burkina Faso
Wiry, and often criticised at club level – especially when he was at Hamburg – for his decision making, Pitroipa was a delight to watch, and rose to the demands of spearheading Burkina Faso in the absence of other senior strikers. A genuine magician with the ball, and with a huge fan club now in South Africa.
3: Sunday Mba, Nigeria
A brilliant goal struck to win the quarter-final against Ivory Coast announced that Nigerian club side Warri Wolves have been sitting on a gem, likely to be headhunted by European clubs. His goal against Burkina Faso, showing marvellous dexterity with right foot and left, was a worthy way to win the final.
4: Seydou Keita, Mali
Led Mali to third place and showed that, through his years at Barcelona, his willingness to play discreet roles behind the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta concealed his ability as an attacking midfielder. Mali’s captain was also a sensitive and diplomatic spokesman for a troubled nation.
5: Itumeleng Khune, South Africa
The hosts’ goalkeeper was the main reason South Africa remained unbeaten until the penalty shoot-out of the quarter-final against Mali. He is not a skyscraper, but he has a good leap and has excellent, assured and rapid distribution with his feet. Now the subject of a campaign to give him the captain’s armband.
6: Ryan Mendes, Cape Verde
Might the minnows have gilded their remarkable Nations Cup debut further had Mendes not been injured in the quarter-final against Ghana? Possibly. Cape Verde were energised by the attacking midfielder, who showed gumption, ambition and appreciation of his unsung colleagues’ movement.