Africa Cup of Nations: Who made WhoScored.com’s team of the round?

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Who impressed during the first round of matches at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations? WhoScored.com pick their team of the round…

Goals were at a premium across the first round of group games at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, with nine of the first 12 matches remarkably ending 1-0.

With round one in bank at this month’s tournament, it’s time to take stock of the action so far and run through the WhoScored.com team of the round…

Image: WhoScored.com pick their Africa Cup of Nations team of the round

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Goalkeeper: Mohamed Kamara (Sierra Leone) – 8.20 rating

Sierra Leone’s first AFCON match in 26 years was one to savour, as they managed to hold defending champions Algeria to a goalless draw. Algeria were on the front foot for much of the game, as expected, but they found no way past Sierra Leone goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara. The 22-year-old earned his clean sheet with seven saves, the most of any goalkeeper across all round-one matches.

Sky Sports to show AFCON live

The Africa Cup of Nations tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in January and February.

Right-back: Jefferson Encada (Guinea-Bissau) – 7.99 rating

Guinea-Bissau were forced to settle with a 0-0 draw with Sudan in their group opener and may live to regret missing a late penalty with tough matches against Egypt and Nigera to come. Right-back Jefferson Encada was the pick of the bunch of the Guinea-Bissau players and the 23-year-old certainly had an AFCON debut to remember. Sudan attacked almost exclusively down Encada’s side of the pitch and he responded with 10 tackles and interceptions combined, a joint record so far at the tournament.

Centre-back: Mustafa Karshoum (Sudan) – 8.03 rating

While Encada impressed for Guinea-Bissau, it was Sudan centre-back Mustafa Karshoum that took the WhoScored Man of the Match award in the draw between the two sides. The 29-year-old weighed in with six tackles and interceptions combined and showed his experience by being in the right place at the right time with a vital clearance off the line to help earn Sudan their first-ever clean sheet at the Africa Cup of Nations.

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Highlights of the Africa Cup of Nations group stage match between Sudan and Guinea-Bissau

Centre-back: Pape Abou Cisse (Senegal) – 7.89 rating

Senegal left it late to beat Zimbabwe in their opening match but one of the pre-tournament favourites got off to the winning start expected. Despite the fact Senegal dominated possession, Zimbabwe were still able to get forward and the Lions of Teranga still had to be alert to danger at the back. Pape Abou Cisse led them on that front, completing the match with five tackles and interceptions combined, as many clearances made and four aerial duels won. If Senegal are to go one better than the 2019 edition of the tournament, then keeping clean sheets is vital.

Also See:

  • AFCON 2021 tables
  • AFCON fixtures
  • Get Sky Sports
  • Live football on Sky Sports this week

Left-back: Nouhou Tolo (Cameroon) – 8.64 rating

Vincent Aboubakar scored the goals as hosts Cameroon came from behind to beat Burkina Faso in the tournament’s curtain-raiser but it was left-back Nouhou Tolo that impressed most. The 24-year-old played a pivotal role at both ends of the pitch, completing 100 per cent of his attempted tackles (4/4) and 100 per cent of his attempted dribbles (4/4) to drive Cameroon up the pitch. Burkina Faso would score moments later, but Tolo made a terrific goal-line clearance to at least delay the away side taking the lead in the first half. After such a well-rounded performance, Tolo actually finished the first batch of group games as the WhoScored.com player of the round.

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Highlights from the opening Africa Cup of Nations game between Cameroon and Burkina Faso

Right wing: Max Gradel (Ivory Coast) – 7.75 rating

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Max Gradel scored one of the best goals seen so far in the Africa Cup Of Nations as he opened the scoring for the Ivory Coast against Equatorial Guinea

Former Leeds winger Max Gradel vindicated his selection in the team over Premier League duo Nicolas Pepe and Wilfried Zaha with the winning goal as the Ivory Coast beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 on Wednesday night. The 34-year-old did not offer much else going forward beyond the match-winner but perhaps showed why he was in the team over the likes of Pepe and Zaha with his defensive work. Gradel completed six tackles and interceptions combined and made one clearance to help the Elephants kickstart their tournament with a clean sheet.

Centre midfield: Bouna Sarr (Senegal) – 8.04 rating

Bayern Munich full-back Bouna Sarr showed great versatility in Senegal’s victory over Zimbabwe by doing a fine job in central midfield. Senegal were forced into changes after a number of players tested positive for COVID-19 on the eve of the tournament, with Sarr required to play out of position. The 29-year-old thrived under the added responsibility of getting further forward with five shots, two key passes and four successful dribbles. Sarr did not forget his defensive duties, either, completing 100 per cent of his attempted tackles (3/3).

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Highlights of the Africa Cup of Nations Group B match between Senegal and Zimbabwe

Centre midfield: Gustavo Sangare (Burkina Faso) – 8.11 rating

Gustavo Sangare took full advantage of a goalkeeping error from Andre Onana to score the first goal of AFCON 2021, volleying in expertly at the back post from Bertrand Traore’s cross. Burkina Faso did not keep Cameroon out for long and ended up losing 2-1 but they certainly gave the host nation a shock. Sangare impressively completed 90 per cent of his attempted passes from an advanced midfield position, while still managing to carve out four goalscoring chances for team-mates. The 25-year-old was central to everything positive about Burkina Faso going forward and Cameroon resorted to fouls as a way to stop him, with Sangare winning five free-kicks.

Left wing: Sofiane Boufal (Morocco) – 8.58 rating

Morocco ran out 1-0 winners over Ghana thanks to a late effort from Sofiane Boufal, in arguably one of the toughest match-ups on paper across the first round of group games. Boufal brought out his full range of tricks and that didn’t go down well with the Ghana players, who collectively fouled him six times. No player has made more key passes than Boufal at this year’s tournament, with the 28-year-old registering six against Ghana.

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Highlights of the African Cup of Nations Group C match between Morocco and Ghana

Striker: Sadio Mane (Senegal) – 8.21 rating

While Mohamed Salah had an opening game to forget for Egypt, his Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane had one to remember. Not on penalties for club, Mane certainly showed he can handle the pressure for country as he netted a 97th-minute winner from the spot in Senegal’s 1-0 victory over Zimbabwe. Mane played as the centre-forward in the absence of Alanyaspor striker Famara Diedhiou, who was one of eight players missing for Senegal with COVID. Senegal did well not to leave Mane isolated, as the 29-year-old still recorded four attempts, five key passes and four successful dribbles.

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Sadio Mane stepped up to score an injury-time winner for Senegal after a controversial penalty was given in the 97th minute to break Zimbabwe’s hearts

Striker: Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon) – 8.21 rating

Rounding off the best rated XI is Cameroon striker Vincent Aboubakar. The 29-year-old scored twice as hosts Cameroon came from behind to beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in the tournament curtain raiser. Aboubakar has now taken an early lead in the race for the tournament’s Golden Boot. In fact, Aboubakar is actually responsible for 17 per cent of the tournament’s total goal tally thus far. The Cameroon captain had only scored one goal in eight previous appearances at the Africa Cup of Nations, so picked a great moment to step up for his country.

Sky Sports to show AFCON live

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There were incredible scenes at the Africa Cup of Nations as the referee blew for full-time at 85 and 89 minutes in the game between Tunisia and Mali!

The Africa Cup of Nations tournament will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in January and February.

The tournament, originally scheduled to be played in June and July 2021, will be played in Cameroon between January 9 and February 6, 2022, with Sky Sports showing all 52 games live.

Twenty-four teams will take part, kicking off on January 9 as hosts Cameroon host Burkina Faso in Yaounde, before culminating in the final on February 6 in the capital.

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