With the first week of the 30th edition of the Afcon tournament having concluded on Saturday, we at GSV decided to compile a Dream Team United, comprising eleven players that have stood out for us during the course of the tournament’s first 7 days. With the last round of fixtures commencing today, these players will be entrusted with the hopes and dreams of a nation, and it is them who will have to emerge as the difference between advancing to the knockout stages and bowing out of the tournament as a fond memory. The tournament has seen some moments of brilliance and some solid performances, and so we deemed it necessary to acknowledge those who have performed adequately during the first two rounds. While some of the players in the Dream Team United seem like obvious calls, others require steady explanations as to how and why they made the squad.
The Dream Team United for week 1 will line up in an offensive 3-5-2 formation:
Goalkeeper – Didier Ovono Age:31 Country: Gabon
Coming into the tournament, much of the conversation surrounding a relatively young Gabon side revolved around the likes of captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and his fellow attackers, and after the skipper fired his side into the lead in the first half, it looked as though the hype around the Gabonese attack was justified. But for us, it was goalkeeper Didier Ovono, who plays his club football for Belgian outfit Oostende, who was the stand out player in that game, making save after save and ensuring that his side remained in the lead. The Burkina Faso attack did everything in their power to get back in the game, breaching the defence on a few occasions, but their frontline, especially Jonathan Pitroipa, found it difficult to get past the stopper. Didier Ovono was the difference between the sides in that game, and for that he makes the GSV Dream Team United.
Centre Back – Eric Mathoho Age: 24 Country: South Africa
Kaizer Chiefs Centre back Eric ‘Tower’ Mathoho missed out on his side’s opener against Algeria, and on his return to the side in their clash against Senegal, the Bafana Bafana defence appeared to be a more solid and organised unit. Allowing very little to get past him, Tower brought a certain calmness to the back line, and despite his side failing to keep a clean sheet, he personally gave a rock solid performance.
Right Centre Back – Kara Mbodj Age: 25 Country: Senegal
Kara Mbodj, who plays for KRC Genk in the Belgium Pro League, makes the side for his solid performances against both Ghana and Senegal. While putting in a shift in the Senegalese defence, Kara Mbodj also posses an aerial threat during set pieces, a threat that both Ghana and South Africa, who he scored against, found difficult to deal with. For his all round performance, Kara Mbodj makes our Dream Team back line.
Left Centre Back – Faouzi Ghoulam Age: 23 Country: Algeria
Napoli defender Ghoulam comes into the side on the back of two good performances. The first against South Africa, where he rounded his cool, calm performance off with a goal, and the second against Ghana, a game in which he and his fellow backliners were able to contain the Ghanaian attack right up until a stoppage time strike from Asamoah Gyan left. A young, solid defender, Ghoulam will be an important part of Algeria’s defence for years to come.
Central Midfielder – Youssouf Mulumbu Age: 28 Country: DR Congo
The match between Zambia and DR Congo saw an early goal from the Chipolopolo, a goal many thought they would go on and add to. But it wasn’t to be, as they went anonymous soon after, and struggled to gain meaningful possession of the ball. Youssouf Mulumbu, in the middle of the park for DR Congo, was one of the players who ensured that there was one way traffic for large portions of the game, getting involved in the physical side of the game as well as feeding the ball forward to keep the pressure on the Zambian defence.
Central Midfielder – Dean Furman Age: 26 Country: South Africa
Very few people who managed to watch Bafana Bafana’s clash against Algeria will argue against the fact that despite the 3-1 final scoreline, Shakes Mashaba’s troops outplayed their opponents, and that the South Africans were particularly strong in the midfield areas. The partnership of Andile Jali and Dean Furman in the middle of the park allowed the attack minded players to play with freedom and a swagger about them, and for that ‘The Foreman’ comes into the side. His contribution in midfield against Senegal, where he complemented some neat tackling with surges into the attack, also warrant a spot for Doncaster Rovers’ ‘Foreman’ in our Dream Team midfield.
Left Attacking Midfielder – Yannick Bolasie Age: 25 Country: DR Congo
One of the most exciting talents on display at the Afcon tournament, Bolasie constantly poses an attacking threat. He is the type of player who can produce a moment of brilliance, and can inspire those around him with his trickery and effortless flair. His performance against Zambia, which led to him scoring the equalising goal, is indicative of the impact a player like Yannick can bring to the side.
Central Attacking Midfielder – Heldon Ramos Age: 26 Country: Cape Verde Islands
Not many people expected the Cape Verde Islands to start their clash against Tunisia in the manner that they did, not least the Tunisians themselves. But, inspired by Heldon Ramos and Kuca, they were able to pose the type of threat that made for entertaining viewing. While the penalty Heldon won and took himself to score the equaliser may have been a dubious one, the Sporting Lisbon man’s performance was deserving of a goal, and a spot on this week’s GSV Dream Team United.
Right Attacking Midfielder – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Age: 25 Country: Gabon
Captaining a young side is never an easy task, especially when you’re a relatively young lad yourself, and in Gabon’s opening game, Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang didn’t just captain, he led. In addition to scoring his side’s opening Afcon goal, he put in the kind of performance that showed his maturity and growth as a player, and for that, the speedster earns a spot on the Dream Team.
Forward – Emilio Nsue Age: 25 Country: Equatorial Guinea
The Equatorial Guinea side has gone through some changes in recent times. In addition to new management, the team has seen an influx of Spanish-born players coming into the side, players who have no experience on the African stage. They needed a leader, someone to lead from the front, and in the opening game of the tournament, Middlesbrough attacker Emilio Nsue stepped up to the plate. He scored, he captained, he led, and even though his second goal was judged to be offside in controversial circumstances, his performance was outstanding.
Forward – Bakary Sako Age: 26 Country: Mali
Well, that goal.
These are the 11 we think were a cut above the rest in the opening week of the Afcon spectacle. While we accept that quite a few players produced moments that were Dream Team worthy, we have chosen these 11 based on the reasons we have stated. Whether these players can produce enough to keep their place in the team or even their side’s place in the tournament remains to be seen.