6 Players Who, Despite Losing the AFCON Final, Won Player of the Tournament

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6 Players Who, Despite Losing the AFCON Final, Won Player of the Tournament

In the thrilling 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final, William Troost-Ekong, playing for Nigeria, soared high to score the opening goal, hoping to secure victory for his team. The defender, representing PAOK, had displayed exceptional skills throughout the tournament, contributing significantly to his team’s solid defense. Many fans anticipated a triumph for the Super Eagles, who had not won the title since 2013. However, the match took an unexpected turn as Ivory Coast, the host country, staged a remarkable comeback.

Franck Kessie and Sebastian Haller, representing Ivory Coast, each found the back of the net, sealing a fairytale victory for their team. Despite the disappointment of defeat, Troost-Ekong received praise for his outstanding performance, earning the Player of the Tournament Award from CAF President Patrice Motsepe. Ahmed Musa’s absence led Troost-Ekong to captain the Nigerian side, showcasing his leadership qualities on the field.

While winning the tournament often increases a player’s chances of receiving individual accolades, it is not always guaranteed. Troost-Ekong’s case echoes similar instances in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations, where players from losing teams have been recognized for their exceptional contributions.

1. Christian Atsu – Ghana 2015

Christian Atsu represented Ghana in the 2015 AFCON held in Equatorial Guinea. Despite Ghana’s defeat to Ivory Coast in the final, Atsu’s impressive gameplay caught the attention of the judging panel. Atsu, a versatile winger, showcased his skills on the field, despite not topping the goals or assists charts. His performances, particularly a memorable goal captured on Ghana’s Football Association website, earned him recognition despite his team’s loss.

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2. Jonathan Pitroipa – Burkina Faso 2013

Jonathan Pitroipa played a pivotal role in Burkina Faso’s journey to the 2013 final, where they faced Nigeria. Alongside Aristide Bance, Pitroipa played a crucial role in his team’s success, particularly shining in the quarter-finals against Togo. Despite Burkina Faso’s defeat in the final, Pitroipa’s contributions did not go unnoticed.

3. Benni McCarthy – South Africa 1998

Benni McCarthy stood out in the 1998 tournament held in Burkina Faso, representing South Africa. Despite his team’s loss to Egypt in the final, McCarthy’s goal-scoring prowess earned him the joint top-scorer title. His remarkable performance throughout the tournament led to him being awarded the Best Player accolade, highlighting his impact despite the ultimate outcome for his team.

4. Abedi Pele – Ghana 1992

Abedi Pele showcased his talent for Ghana in the 1992 tournament held in Dakar. Despite his absence in the final due to suspension, Pele’s contributions during the tournament did not go unnoticed. His three goals in the competition, second only to Nigeria’s Rashid Yekini, earned him recognition as the best Player of the tournament.

5. Roger Milla – Cameroon 1986

Roger Milla led Cameroon’s charge in the 1986 tournament hosted and won by Egypt. Despite Cameroon’s loss in the final, Milla’s goal-scoring exploits were remarkable. As the tournament’s top scorer with four goals, Milla’s impact was undeniable, despite his team falling short in the decisive match.

6. Fawzi Al-Issawi – Libya 1982

Fawzi Al-Issawi played a crucial role for Libya in the 1982 tournament held on home soil. Despite Libya’s defeat to Ghana in the final, Al-Issawi’s performances earned him recognition as the tournament’s best Player. His contributions, including outshining the top scorer, George AlHassan, showcased his importance to the Libyan team.

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In addition to individual awards, other players also received recognition for their performances in the tournament. Ronwen Williams, representing South Africa, was awarded the Golden Glove for his exceptional goalkeeping skills, having kept five clean sheets throughout the competition. Meanwhile, Emilio Nsue clinched the Golden Boot award for his goal-scoring exploits, while Simo Adingra was named the best young Player, further highlighting the diverse talent on display during the tournament.

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