INSIDE AFCON 2019: The Award Winners of the 32nd Nations Cup

Algeria topped the individual awards chart as Ismail Bennacer and Rais M’Bolhi claimed the Best Player and Best Goal Keeper Awards at the just/recently concluded 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

Senegal were unfortunate in the final of the 32nd edition of the Nations Cup tourney as they lost out of another opportunity to produce the best player of the tournament or pick any individual award.

In 2002, the Teranga Lions were defeated by Cameroon via penalties after current coach, Cissé was unable to convert his penalty kick. This time, a Bounedjah Baghdad’s shot deflected off the outstretched leg of Salif Sané to prolong Senegal’s quest for a maiden AFCON conquest.

Algeria’s goaltender, M’Bolhi was resilient in between the sticks as his 65th save denied Senegal’s Youssouf Sabaly a chance to get his side back into the game and consequently emerged Man of the Match.

Earlier on Wednesday, Nigeria’s Odion Jude Ighalo distinct himself among other strikers at the Fiesta as his solo strike aided the Super Eagles to claim Bronze for a record eighth time in the history of the competition.  

Individual Award Winners at AFCON 2019

Best Player of the Tournament – Ismail Bennacer

Ismail Bennacer becomes the second Algerian player ever to be awarded the best player of the tournament in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations after Rabah Madjer in 1990.

He produced a string of outstanding performances, breaking up most of the opponents’ attacks but also remarkably providing three assists upfront, including the decisive assist against Senegal in the final.

The 21-year-old midfielder was named the best player of the group stage after performing brilliantly against Kenya, Senegal, and Tanzania and has completed 12 dribbles and made 10 tackles all through the tournament. 

Bennacer who plays for Empoli in the Italian Serie A formerly featured for Arsenal and is currently set for a deal with Italian football giants, AC Milan.

Best Goal Keeper of the Tournament – Rais M’Bolhi

Rais M’Bolhi kept a total five clean sheets at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, conceding only two goals all through the tournament – against Ivory Coast in the Quarterfinals and Nigeria in the Semifinals.

The 33-year-old was first given an opportunity in the Algerian Senior National Team by coach Rabah Saadane in June 2010 and has currently made sixty-eight appearances.   

He was awarded the prize money of $10,000 alongside the award. He currently plays between the sticks for Saudi Professional League side, Al-Ettifaq.

Golden Boot/Highest Goal Scorer Award – Odion Jude Ighalo

Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo beat off competition from Senegal’s Sadio Mane and Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez who are on three goals apiece to win the Golden Boot for the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations despite the inability of the Super Eagles to reach the finals.

He becomes the first player to score five goals at an African Cup of Nations since Mohamed Nagy back in 2010 and joins the list of Nigerians like Segun Odegbami, Rashidi Yekini, Julius Aghaowa, Jay-Jay Okocha & Emmanuel Emenike who won the AFCON Golden Boot. The former Watford forward was equally the highest goal scorer during the 2019 AFCON Qualifiers.

Ighalo plies his trade in the Chinese Super League with Shanghai Greenland Shenhua and officially announced his retirement from the Super Eagles after finding the back of the net 16 times in a total of 35 appearances.