Picking an African Dream Team of 2022
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2022 was surely the year when Bounou displaced Edouard Mendy as Africa’s top goalkeeper, with the Sevilla man excelling as the Chelsea stopper’s club career at least has begun to unravel.
Bono’s Rojiblancos again enjoyed the best defensive record in La Liga last term—conceding just 30 goals in 38 league games—while the Moroccan’s performances on the continent resulted in yet another deep European run, even though they ultimately fell short against West Ham United in the Europa League.
The Canada-born stopper was also one of the outstanding goalkeepers of the World Cup, with his calm assurance, leadership and superb stopping among the key reasons why Morocco enjoyed such a sterling defensive record en route to the Final Four.
Hakimi’s first season at Paris Saint-Germain wasn’t entirely straightforward, but he nonetheless ended the year with a winner’s medal while continuing to establish himself as one of Europe’s top right-backs.
His dovetailing with Kylian Mbappe at PSG has been one of the key elements of the French giants’ play this season, while Hakimi—like Bono—also starred for the Atlas Lions at the World Cup.
Arguably even more impressive were his performances at the Africa Cup of Nations, with sublime goals against Gabon and Malawi sending the Lions through to the quarter-finals.
The first of two centre-backs who have featured at full-back for stages of this year, it’s somewhat surprising how much criticism Bassey has received since signing for Ajax considering his youth and the upsides to his game.
He became Rangers’ most expensive sale when he departed for the Dutch giants in the summer, having been part of the side that reached the Europa League final and won the Scottish Cup.
The 22-year-old was named in the Europa League Team of the Tournament only months after making his debut for Nigeria’s Super Eagles, and after a red card on his Ajax debut, has begun to settle in Amsterdam.
His time in the Dutch capital—wherever it leads—will surely help Bassey’s development in the years to come.
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Despite making a name as a left-back, Reinildo has been forced into the heart of Atletico Madrid’s backline in recent months due to a lack of options for Diego Simeone’s side.
However, the Mozambique man has excelled in a new role, featuring regularly as a centre-back and winning over the doubters with his sturdy defensive attributes.
He’s been a key part of La Liga’s joint fourth-best defence so far, with only one other player in the whole division—Espanyol’s Vinicius Souza—averaging more tackles per match than the 28-year-old.
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With two former left-backs in the centre of defence, we’ve gone for Algeria’s Bensebaini on the left…even though he has featured in the middle of the backline earlier in his career.
He’s been a key part of a Borussia Monchengladbach defence that have improved noticeably this season, with the cultured full-back also making some awesome offensive contributions as this side of his game develops.
He’s scored five in 14 Bundesliga outings so far—including in victories over Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig—and the likes of BVB, Internazionale and Bayern Munich are understood to be eyeing the adventurous wideman.
The Racing Club de Lens skipper was outstanding in Ligue 1 last season, helping the Blood and Gold to their joint best league finish since 2007 and making some decisive contributions along the way.
Two of his eight league goals were injury-time winners against Saint-Etienne and Stade de Reims—as Fofana developed an uncanny knack for grabbing late points—while he’s already contributed five goals to the cause this season.
The Cote d’Ivoire international is now being linked with a 2023 move to Marseille or Sevilla.
Squeezing Thomas Partey and former teammate Franck Kessie out of our African XI for 2002 is Algeria’s Bennacer, who bounced back from a difficult Nations Cup to play a key role in AC Milan ending their decade-long wait for a Scudetto.
One of the unsung heroes of that success, his return from injury helped the Rossoneri get over the line, with Bennacer proving influential after settling back into the team since February.
A case could be made that he’s Serie A’s best central midfielder, and his offensive and defensive contributions, as well as relentless work rate, underpinned Milan’s success.
Chelsea are understood to be keen on the North African.
Amrabat makes the cut following his outstanding World Cup with Morocco, where he won a legion of admirers with his wholehearted displays and full-blooded tackling.
One particular challenge on Kylian Mbappe summed up the defensive midfielder’s tenacity and combativeness, but his in-game intelligence, positioning and use of the ball were also decisive as Morocco broke new ground for African sides at the World Cup.
At club level, Amrabat’s unswerving passing ability has become an increasingly key feature of Fiorentina’s encouraging start to the season, although don’t be surprised if he’s not around for too much longer.
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Criticised for his performances earlier in the year, it’s true that Salah’s form dipped during the first half of 2022 as the attacker recovered from Africa Cup of Nations heartbreak.
He had his moments in Cameroon, but ultimately fell short in the final as the Pharaohs were pipped by Senegal, and then was on the receiving end once again as—with lasers being shone in his eyes—he missed the opening spotkick in Dakar as the Teranga Lions secured World Cup qualification as Egypt’s expense.
Nonetheless, he was named in the Afcon Team of the Tournament and won two domestic cups while also reaching the Champions League final with Liverpool.
This term, there are signs that he’s returning to his best form again; Salah had a hand in 13 goals in 13 games before the World Cup, and has already hit the ground running upon domestic football’s return.
After equalling Kenny Dalglish in Liverpool’s scoring charts, what can the 30-year-old go on to achieve with the Reds in 2023?
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2022 was surely the year when Osimhen became Africa’s outstanding goal-getter, eclipsing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the process.
He’s been one of Napoli’s key men as they’ve mounted a credible title challenge this season, netting some big goals as they romped through a 13-game winning streak, while also taking top spot in the Serie A goal charts.
He currently has nine goals in 11 games, having become Nigeria’s all-time top scorer in the Italian top flight last term.
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What a magical year it was for Mane, who fired Senegal to their first Africa Cup of Nations victory in February—being named Player of the Tournament—before inspiring the Teranga Lions to the World Cup with playoff victory over Egypt.
Of course, injury denied him his chance to take part in the tournament itself, but the attacker had already amassed FA and League Cup victories with Liverpool while also reaching the Champions League final.
He’d scored and assisted a combined nine goals in 14 league games at Bayern Munich before injury struck, and after finishing second in the Ballon d’Or—the highest position for any African player since George Weah in 1995—Mane was a shoo-in for our Dream Team.
Ibrahim Sangare, Inaki Williams, Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting, Zouhair El Moutaraji, Mohammed Kudus, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Peter Shalulile, Brian Brobbey, Ramiz Zerrouki, Sebastien Haller, Dominic Solanke, Paul Onuachu, Azzedine Ounahi, Dango Ouattara, Thomas Partey, Ali Musrati, Youssouf Ndayishimiye