Africa World Cup XI
Like Tim Howard, M’Bolhi’s reputation has been partly enhanced by poor finishing. That’s not to take any credit away from the man with the type of beard that makes him resemble an award-winning thawb designer.
Occupying one of Algeria’s most flimsy positions pre-tournament, he radiated the confidence and penalty-area authority that made him look like the undisputed No1 to the uninitiated. He has certainly cemented his spot for the incoming manager.
The Toulouse defender arrived in Brazil with glowing previews and, despite Cote d’Ivoire’s dramatic exit, delivered with typical brio.
The two assists against Japan to turn the game on its head showed his attacking acumen, while the right side of the Ivorian defence was rarely breached due to his strength and defensive maturity.
While his Afcon 2013 centre-back partner Godfrey Oboabona has faded, Omeruo, 20, continues to be unflustered in high-pressure environments.
The standout performance came versus Bosnia when he won all his tackles and made some timely interceptions as Nigeria’s defence coped with the duress of a 1-0 lead. He’d showcase his future leadership credentials in that game, too – berating John Obi Mikel, the grandest name in the team, for a lapse in concentration.
How on earth did Rafik Halliche only muster 1 game in two years for Fulham? It was a question many asked as the 27-year-old coordinated Algeria’s defensive system with unfailing vigilance.
Constantly talking and gesticulating, his importance wasn’t just down to communication and organisation – he rarely committed errors when he was called upon.
Unquestionably Ghana’s most talented midfielder, the general feeling seems to be that Asamoah is wasted at left back, despite also being stationed there for Juventus.
His ability to deliver a telling ball, as he did with a sumptuous outside-off-the-boot assist against Portugal, and contribute defensively is making many reconsider their stance. Ghana simply don’t have an adequate candidate to rival Asamoah, defensively or offensively, at left back.
The game against Germany was the defensive midfielder’s first start, but he delivered one of Algeria’s finest individual performances. Partly due to his unassuming, ordinary-bloke air, his stellar performance has been overlooked, and may even be forgotten in a four years’ time.
Then again, maybe that is befitting for a member of this Algeria team. After all, it is hard to pick a standout individual; even those thrown in the maelstrom have performed.
In that sense, Lacen’s solitary start and fine performance epitomised Algeria’s modus operandi.
Whereas John Obi Mikel was beset by the rust of that can accumulate when one is not playing regular football, Onazi was the man who added authority into the Nigeria midfield, screening the back four but also possessing the energy to shuttle from box to box.
Like Omeruo, his remarkable maturity in high-pressure games and consistency over the last 18 months makes him invaluable in the current Super Eagles set up and in the coming years.
At the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Algeria lacked the incision and poise to breakdown risk-averse teams.
Now, in Yacine Brahimi, with that evasive control and awkward, low centre of gravity, they have one of the continent’s finest dribblers. His alliance with Sofiane Feghouli – their intricate combination play was a key feature in the 4-2 win over South Korea – could see the task of stifling Algeria not being so straightforward for opponents.
The Valencia midfielder was the closest thing that Algeria had to a star yet, aside from his tidiness and remarkable efficiency on the ball, it was his selflessness and work rate down the right wing which were most impressive.
Gervais wasn’t at his sparkling best but, even when he’s having an indifferent game, his confidence no longer takes a demoralising dip that can’t be overturned. With two goals and an assist, he was able to conjure game-changing moments in each of the three games he played in.
Perhaps if you’re a true professional, one that can be trusted to maintain the fitness befitting an elite athlete, plying your trade in the Arab leagues shouldn’t be an issue.
In Gyan’s case he has shown that his physical condition can more than hold its own amidst the frenzy of top-level football. In fact, he showed that he was treading on the sweet-spot of his career – all facets of his game looked better than they were four years ago, and his two goals in the tournament now make him Africa’s all-time highest World Cup scorer.
Honorable Mentions: Vincent Enyeama, Harrison Afful, Efe Ambrose, Jonathan Mensah, Didier Zokora, Faouzi Ghoulam, Juwon Oshaniwa, Sulley Muntari, Peter Odemwingie, Abdelmoumene Djabou, Emmanuel Emenike, Islam Slimani
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