2019 AFCON: Dream Team of round one
Conceded once before being replaced by injury, and did look nervy at times, but read the game well and made a series of brave interventions to keep Zimbabwe in the game against Egypt.
In general, he commanded his area, organised his defence, and had he not made a series of critical stops, Zimbabwe could have been looking at a comfortable defeat.
Was part of a Nigeria backline that kept a clean sheet against Burundi, after being given the nod to start at full-back, and also forged the Super Eagles’ opening with a moment of genuine class.
His backheeled assist for Odion Ighalo’s goal was the inspiration the West African giants needed to kick their campaign off, and demonstrated Aina’s magnificent technique.
Morocco weren’t at their best against Namibia, but Benatia still delivered a typically tenacious and rugged performance in the heart of the backline.
He won six aerial battles against the southern Africans—no central defender won more in their opener—and didn’t demonstrate any rustiness after leaving Serie A for Al-Duhail.
A real fan favourite, Benlamri was given the nod—somewhat unexpectedly—in the heart of the Algerian defence, and didn’t disappoint with a confident and commanding display against Kenya.
He enjoyed his battle with Michael Olunga—a versatile attacker who tested him with direct duels and in behind—and his future tussles with some of the tournament’s top strikers will be fascinating to watch.
Selected ahead of Ronald Pfumbidzai on Zimbabwe’s left flank, but impressed up against Mohamed Salah.
The Liverpool superstar tried to get the better of the full-back both on the inside and the outside, but Lunga’s concentration was superb, he read the game well, and was largely equal to all that Salah threw at him.
When Egypt did get their goal, it came via the opposite side.
Scored one fine goal and contributed another assist during a fine 60-minute appearance for Mali against Mauritania.
Now 23, Traore has struggled to realise the potential he showed as a youngster during his club career, but has the quality to be one of the breakout stars of the Nations Cup.
Another Mali midfielder who secures himself a spot in our team is Samassekou.
He delivered a complete display against Mauritania, contributing an assist, winning aerial battles, weighing in with tackles and interceptions, and also creating several further goalscoring opportunities for his teammates.
Olympique de Marseille have been linked to his signature, and after this kind of showing, you can see why.
There were questions—before the tournament—about where the goals would come from for Uganda, but Patrick Kaddu and Emmanuel Okwi answered the critics by each finding the net as the Democratic Republic of Congo were dispatched.
The genius behind their goals, however, was Miya, who assisted both during a fine display in which he ran the show for the Cranes.
Had the attacking midfielder had a little bit more composure, he could have even had a goal himself.
Introduced to the Senegal team as the replacement for suspended Sadio Mane, Diatta was a lively presence as the Teranga Lions saw off Tanzania to begin their Afcon campaign with a win.
As well as scoring a delicious effort from outside the area—showing off his technique—Diatta looked comfortable in possession and troubled the Taifa Stars’ backline with his movement.
When Mane returns, he can be an effective option for Senegal off the bench.
Kaba rivals Diatta for the best goal of the tournament so far, having netted a delicious effort during Guinea’s 2-2 draw with Madagascar.
He opened the scoring after 34 minutes, bringing a long ball down with a magnificent, deft touch to evade the onrushing Malagasy keeper, before calming finishing into the empty net.
The tall, athletic forward was a threat throughout for the Syli Nationale, and also created three goalscoring chances for his teammates.
After one match, the 34-year-old is the unlikely top scorer in the tournament, having scored twice during Benin’s 2-2 opening draw with Ghana.
The veteran deserves immense credit for his prowess in the box, as he poked the opener underneath Richard Ofori after reacting quickest to a rebound, before meeting a cross following a short Beninois corner to dispatch a second against the 10 men Black Stars.
Pote, either in wide areas or playing more centrally, was a constant thorn for the Ghanaian defence.