Thursday, September 16, 2021

Players who made Afcon 2017 first round exciting

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Algeria’s forward Riyad Mahrez (back) celebrates with Algeria’s midfielder Nabil Bentaleb after scoring a goal during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group B football match between Algeria and Zimbabwe in Franceville on January 15, 2017.

Most memories involving individual brilliance in football normally end with a goal. However, there are some instances when they do not, and where a sheer act, move, save or dribble are of such top-shelf quality, that remain in your mind even more magnified than a goal.

Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha dribbling past four Sudanese players and then his own shadow just for fun, and recently, Lionel Messi using the law of gravity and the ball to force Jerome Boateng to sit down, are just two examples.

Such a moment also occurred during the Zimbabwe Algeria game in Franceville, when the Warrior’s Khama Billat turned into a magician.In the second half, nursing the ball and leading the counter, he defied all logic thrice by first undressing Aissa Mandi, then turning him into a wobbly jelly fish, and then finally leaving him dizzy with a feint and two delicious crossovers. Only Raïs M’Bolhi, guessing the right angle to block, prevented what would have been the most spectacular goal in Afcon 2017 for quite a while.

These are the moments football fans live for. Millions of others will remember his waltz for a long time to come. Goal or no goal.Out of the eight matches played so far, five have been draws and only three matches produced a winner, Senegal, DR Congo and Ghana.

African Footballer of the Year, Riyad Mahrez, is currently the leading scorer with two goals that he scored in the two-all draw against Zimbabwe.The referees have been impressive so far in the tournament, which has produced a total of 19 yellow cards and one red card, which was issued to Joyce Lomalisa of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Football Editors have put together the Top 6 moments from the opening round of matches. Billiat Brilliance…
Khama Billiat’s performance against Algeria won hearts of many and proved why he is one of best players based in Africa as per the Caf awards. He may not have found the back of the net, but it was 90 minutes during which he demonstrated skill, technique, showmanship and trickery. It was like a throwback to the days of Okocha, Feindouno, Mustapha Haji and El Hadji Diouf, the players who entertained and terrorised opponents with trickery.

The debutants…
Guinea Bissau, playing in their first ever Afcon, found themselves with an uphill task of playing against tournament hosts Gabon in the opening match.

Adding to that pressure, they conceded first as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang opened the scoring in the 53rd minute. But the tournament debutants remained positive and coach Baciro Candé made some brave tactical changes in search of the equaliser.

It all eventually paid off on the stroke of full time as Juary Soares equalised, subsequently becoming the first ever player to score at the Afcon finals for his country.

Net busting Marhez…
Riyad Mahrez might have just won over those who doubted his credentials as the African Footballer of the Year with his two top drawer goals, which earned Algeria a draw against the Warriors.

Both of Marhez’s goals were great, however, the opening goal was even more amazing, especially considering that a bevy of defenders surrounded him and somehow he managed to strike the ball past them from a very narrow angle. What a goal!

The dance…
What will Afcon be without the slick celebrations, Herve Kage of DR Congo dazzled fans with some hilarious dance moves after scoring the winner for his country against Morocco.

That was a funny Ndombolo dance, also popular in other African countries such as Kenya and Madagascar. Take it away Kage!

Best match of the round
Algeria versus Zimbabwe was unanimously voted as the best match of the opening round of the tournament. The tempo of the match was high as action swayed from one end to the other, both teams dazzling each other with great pace and skill.

Marhez scored the two goals of the Foxes but Khama Billiat could have easily gotten a hat-trick, but he was denied by the woodwork and the goalkeeper several times.

How did he miss that!
Cameroon should have won their match against Burkina Faso had Clinton N’jie been composed inside the box. Jacques Zoua unleashed a pile driver that the Burkinabe keeper Kouakou parried in the path of the unmarked N’jie, who chose the most difficult option, to miss the goal with the keeper still on the floor from the initial save.The Stallions went on to equalise later and N’jie must be kicking himself for choosing the most difficult option, to miss when it looked easier to score.

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