Tactics: Afcon Team of the Tournament
Zambia will be champions of Africa for just 12 months and they will be the shortest-serving champions since Ethiopia in 1962/1963.
That’s because the next tournament will be in 2013. However, they have provided five players for our team of the tournament.
Afcon XI: (4-3-2-1) Mweene – Ecouele Manga, John Boye, Stophira Sunzu, Gosso – Seydou Keita, Isaac Chansa, Youssef Msakni – Chris Katongo, Mayuka – Msakni
Goalkeeper - Kennedy Mweene (Zambia)
On occasions, when his inexperienced defenders were shaky, the South African-based player was confident in his clearing. The Zambia team needed control from key points on the field and, while Chris Katongo led from the front, Mweene was often shown urging and controlling things at the back. His presence of mind to take a penalty during the edgy shootout is also worthy of mention.
Right Defender – Jean Jacques Gosso (Ivory Coast)
He was surprisingly poor by the standards he had set during the tournament proper but in the last game he was just jittery. Gosso muscled Emmanuel Eboue out of the starting line-up, which is something to say in its own right. He also played three positions at the tournament, making him an essential cog in the Elephants’ wheel.
Left Defender - Ecoule-Manga (Gabon)
Very popular in the Libreville area, there is a reason this man was on the radar of Everton, Marseille and Lille. He was powerful both off and on the ground. Excellent in the air and nifty on the ground, where he averages 38 passes per game with a pass completion rate of 85 per cent, Ecuele-Manga’s power and presence at the back stand him out as a very promising talent.
Central Defender - Stophira Sunzu (Zambia)
Strong in the air, quick across the ground, Sunzu was the defensive lynchpin for Zambia despite only being 21. One of the standout performers in the final, he made several crucial interceptions with his good penalty-box positioning; marshalling Didier Drogba out of the game as he also matched him for strength. It was fitting that it was he that went on to score the winning penalty.
Central Defender – John Boye (Mali)
For years forgotten, Boye was once a stalwart in the Ghana Premier League, but due to poor career choices he has been quite anonymous. He was solid defensively for Ghana, whose favourites tag came with defensive issues, as John Mensah was red-carded and Vorsah was unreliable. His clearance from the line against Mali may be remembered as the single reason Ghana remained in the competition.
Defensive Midfielder - Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Ghana)
He is here, not because of the goal he scored against Mali, but due to his classy showings in Ghana’s midfield. There were other sturdy defensive midfielders in this Afcon but Badu made the role so easy, especially as he combined it with helping on the right wing and in attack. It may have been his absence against the nifty Zambians that cost Ghana in the semifinal, as his drives and calm were missed.
Central Midfielder - Seydou Keita (Mali)
Seydou is leading a Malian side in some sort of transition. Shifting effortlessly between playing deep and surging up front to help Diabate and others up front, the Barcelona man was the conductor of his understated Mali side. He rarely gave the ball away, although his constant talking at refs was a turn-off at times.
Central Midfielder – Isaac Chansa (Zambia)
It was hard to choose between Kalaba and Chansa, with the Orlando Pirates player only edging it because of his (in my view) superior control and dictation of play. He has won five trophies in nine months for club and country and you would have thought his technical awareness was honed in Europe. He’s been here in Africa all along. Chansa’s disciplinary issues seem to be a thing of the past and his technique showed throughout, especially in the crucial games against Sudan, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
Left Midfielder - Yousef Msakni (Tunisia)
They called him Little Mozart a few years ago. These days, he goes by Little Messi, because he has a passing familiarity with the Barcelona man. His football is not half bad. Following a commanding African Champions League showing, he was the undisputed choice to be at the fore of Tunisia’s attack. He did it well, running defenses scared, shooting from all positions and creating several options for his mates.
Right Midfielder – Christopher Katongo (Zambia)
The fiery and lively Chipolopolo captain was the Caf Player of the Tournament. He made some key contributions earlier in the tournament; a glorious through-ball when playing as an attacking midfielder to punish Senegal’s lottery high-line; a key header to equalise against Libya in difficult wet conditions and a wonderful solo effort against Equatorial Guinea – a low shot after cutting inside horizontally from the left. He played a mythical role, his white boots dotting all over the turf, his performances committed and, due to his fiery nature, always on the edge,
Forward – Emmanuel Mayuka (Zambia)
Mayuka is 21 years old. That’s very young to be the leader of the line of the African champions, but he has done it with simplicity. He is still maturing, as is evidenced in his poor recovery from offside situations, but he makes up for that by patrolling the length of the final third, in partnership with his mates. His three goals were all strikes any top class striker would be raving about too. For those with younger memories, you may remember that he showed promise in 2007 at the Under-20 World Cup.
Herve Renard is the fourth French coach to win the tournament. The first was Claude le Roy (1988 with Cameroon), Pierre Lechantre (2000 with Cameroon) and Roger Lemerre (2004 with Tunisia). He showed how discipline, motivation and sheer willpower can triumph.
Gary Al-Smith is on Twitter @garyalsmith