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World Cup: Picking Africa's 2022 Dream Team

11:00 AM GMT 19/12/2022
Acraf-Hakimi
GOAL selects the continent’s best 11 to have featured in this year’s showpiece in Qatar

Morocco were the standout African side in this year’s World Cup, with the North African nation becoming the first-ever side from the continent to make it to the semi-finals.

Walid Regragui’s team are likely to dominate observers’ African XI, with the Atlas Lions’ players also making it into the neutrals team of the tournament.

In this feature, GOAL picks out an 11 from the continent’s five representatives in Qatar.

  • Yassine Bounou saves a penalty.

    Yassine Bounou

    With Edouard Mendy having a mixed World Cup, Bounou was Africa’s finest shot-stopper.

    The Sevilla man kept three clean sheets in the finals — against Croatia, Spain and Portugal — and was the hero of the shootout against La Furia Roja, thwarting Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets.

    Even though his team’s watertight rearguard often kept opponents at bay, Bono was dependable when called upon.

  • Romain Saiss.

    Romain Saiss

    You wonder how Morocco’s semi-final defeat by France would have panned out had the former Wolverhampton Wanderers defender been fit.

    Saiss and Nayef Aguerd were vital cogs in the defensive structure that kept clean sheet after clean sheet before the West Ham United defender’s tournament ended against Spain.

    The nation’s captain remained for the Portugal clash despite a hamstring injury before going off injured on the hour.

    Saiss has to be one of the first names on any African XI in Qatar.

  • Mohamed Salisu, Ghana

    Mohammed Salisu

    Despite Ghana’s early exit on their return to the competition in eight years, Salisu gave a commendable account of himself on his tournament bow with the Black Stars.

    The Southampton man was unlucky to concede a penalty in the 3-2 loss versus Portugal, but he made up for that with a goal in the following game against South Korea and a goalmouth clearance when the Asian nation laid siege to his side’s goal.

  • Achraf Hakimi.

    Achraf Hakimi

    Probably also the competition's best right-back, the Paris Saint-Germain man had an outstanding tournament.

    We already knew about Hakimi’s menace in the attacking third, but he put in consistent defensive shifts as the Atlas Lions seldom looked uncoordinated at the back.

    No player at the finals made more tackles (26) or won more tackles (17) than the PSG man.

  • Noussair Mazraoui Morocco.

    Noussair Mazraoui

    Before injuries derailed his World Cup, Mazraoui was Africa’s best performer at left-back.

    Despite playing out of position, the Bayern Munich man was seldom, if ever, found wanting in a somewhat unfamiliar role.

  • Sofyan Amrabat Morocco Portugal World Cup 2022

    Sofyan Amrabat

    It would be remiss to leave out the defensive midfielder who epitomised everything about the number six role.

    Amrabat was press resistant enough to pick out passing options regardless of being harried and he carried the ball whenever he found himself in tight situations with little or no options.

    At the time of writing, he has made the highest number of recoveries (57) in Qatar, with Luka Modric the nearest with 51.

    Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul (37) and France’s Aurelien Tchouameni (35) were the closest to Amrabat before the final but they respectively ended with 42 and 44 recoveries, leaving the Moroccan atop that metric.

  • Mohammed Kudus celebrates against South Korea.

    Mohammed Kudus

    Another who exited after three games but deserves a spot in our XI, Kudus at times appeared to be Ghana’s entire attacking game plan.

    They only looked good against Portugal when he found his feet and could carry the ball aggressively, he netted twice in the 3-2 success over South Korea and won the penalty against Uruguay that could have given the Black Stars an early advantage had Andre Ayew not missed.

    The future is bright for the versatile Ajax man.

  • Ounahi Morocco World Cup 2022

    Azzedine Ounahi

    "I was pleasantly surprised by the number '8', I can't remember the name, I'm sorry... Where did that boy come from? He plays very well,” gushed Luis Enrique after Spain were beaten on penalties by Morocco.

    “This boy hasn't stopped running. We've talked about it with the staff. Spectacular”

    Ounahi was one of the competition’s revelations and Ligue 1 side Angers have revealed he is in demand.

    With an ability to go past his markers with ease, the midfielder is unlikely to stay in France for much longer. He ranked in the top 10 for successful dribbles (10, jointly with Kudus) and his 76.9 percent success rate was the best in Qatar among players to have attempted 10 dibbles or higher.

  • Ziyech Morocco

    Hakim Ziyech

    Ziyech may be a pariah at Chelsea, but under Regragui, the playmaker was elevated and adored.

    The wide playmaker was constantly looking to get involved for the Atlas Lions, offering the required creativity in the attacking third from open play and set pieces.

    He led the way for total shot-creating actions (20) and goal-creating actions (three) in the Morocco side, created more chances than any teammate and was generally positive in possession.

    Without the ball, Ziyech made more interceptions (10) than his colleagues and ranked fourth for tackles plus interceptions and volume of recoveries (29).

  • Ismaila Sarr celebrates his goal against Ecuador.

    Ismaila Sarr

    Someone had to step up in Sadio Mane’s absence, and Sarr fulfilled the role of go-to attacker for Senegal at their third World Cup.

    The wide attacker was direct, always looking to isolate the opposition full-back one-on-one before going past him.

    His aggressive ball-carrying offered the required menace against Qatar and Ecuador, games the African champions needed to win.

    Surely, Sarr’s impact cannot be ignored.

  • Vincent Aboubakar, Cameroon

    Vincent Aboubakar

    Fans of Youssef En-Nesyri may raise eyebrows at Aboubakar’s inclusion, having seen the Sevilla forward score the goal that took the Atlas Lions to the semi-finals.

    However, the Cameroon centre-forward’s impact at the finals must not be swept aside.

    Despite underwhelming off the bench in the Indomitable Lions’ 1-0 loss vs Switzerland, Aboubakar changed the game against Serbia after coming on with the Central African side trailing 3-1 — scoring an outstanding scooped lob to make it 3-2 and setting up Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting for the equaliser — and netting the only goal to seal an unprecedented 1-0 success over Brazil.

    He may have received a second yellow for his wild celebration but Aboubakar nearly masterminded Cameroon’s progress to the round of 16 all by himself.