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Bassogog and Cameroon teammates lead African Nations Cup Best XI

As Cameroon celebrate their surprise triumph, Nick Ames selects his team of the tournament. 

Goalkeeper: Fabrice Ondoa (Cameroon)

He is only 21 and has limited experience, but Ondoa did more than enough for someone to prise him away from a substitute role at Sevilla B. Had he not saved superbly from Didier Ndong in added time of the final group match against Gabon, Cameroon would have been knocked out; had he not saved Sadio Mane's penalty in the quarterfinal shootout, their future would have been up in the air. Ondoa is far from the finished article but he is brave and athletic and came into his own in Gabon.

Right-back: Collins Fai (Cameroon)

Fai's effort epitomized the endeavour and spirit of Cameroon. The Standard Liege player was a battling, relentless presence at right-back and provided a valuable outlet to get his team up the pitch at times of struggle. He was playing in the Cameroonian league as recently as 2013 but, like so many of his teammates, his stock has risen immeasurably. Few expected Cameroon to give as little away as they did and Fai played a key part in their resilient effort.

Centre-back: Ahmed Hegazy (Egypt)

Egypt were not necessarily as watertight as their record prior to the final suggested but Hegazy, one half of an excellent centre-back pairing with Ali Gabr, can hardly be blamed for that. The 26-year-old Al Ahly defender was dominant both physically and technically and a move back to Europe does not look an unrealistic prospect, despite an ill-fated spell at Fiorentina earlier in his career. Hegazy came on in leaps and bounds under the auspices of Hector Cuper and was perhaps this tournament's best defender.

Centre-back: Kara Mbodj (Senegal)

Senegal should have done better than a quarterfinal exit but Mbodj, the Anderlecht defender who came through the ranks of Diambars, the academy founded by Patrick Vieira was a redoubtable presence. His header in the opening win over Tunisia was proof of his threat in the opposition box. Senegal's defence did all that was asked of them and Mbodj even kept his cool from the spot in their shootout vs. Cameroon before Mane's miss broke their hearts.

Left-back: Yacouba Coulibaly (Burkina Faso)

Coulibaly is that rarity: A key player at the African Nations Cup, who still plies his trade in a sub-Saharan domestic league. The 22-year-old left-back plays for RC Bobo Dioulasso in his home country but never looked remotely out of place and made an impact going forward and tracking back. The job he did on Mohamed Salah in the semifinal defeat to Egypt was impressive and his performances were a reminder that there is plenty of homegrown talent in Africa that is yet to be picked up.

AFCON Best XI 2017
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Midfield: Charles Kabore (Burkina Faso)

The heartbeat of an excellent Burkina Faso side, Kabore orchestrated from deep and set the tone and tempo for a number of fluent performances. Watching him perform makes one wonder why he is not playing for a bigger club than Russian outfit FC Krasnodar; he has the brain and technique to operate at the top level and perhaps, if Burkina Faso home in on qualifying for their first-ever World Cup, he will reconsider his decision to retire from international football after this tournament.

Midfielder: Sebastien Siani (Cameroon)

Although not exactly the youngest member of Hugo Broos' vibrant side at 30, the Senegal-born Siani -- he was born to Cameroonian parents - was a revelation in Gabon. He has spent almost all of his career in Belgium and currently plies his trade with Oostende; here he was a conscientious presence in front of the defence and tireless in and out of possession. It was his accurate long pass that set up Vincent Aboubakar's remarkable winner in the final.

Right attacking midfield: Christian Bassogog (Cameroon)

The plaudits are justified for the 21-year-old, who plays for AaB in Denmark. Broos had not even heard of him five months before the tournament but Bassogog was a mesmerising presence on the right wing and, after a frustrating first half in the final, proved equally effective on the left. His 60-yard run won the corner that led to Cameroon's equaliser and he also scored to confirm the semifinal victory over Ghana. Bassogog was this tournament's breakout star and may well have secured himself a big move.

Attacking midfield: Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

For much of the final it seemed as if Salah, whose contributions were sparing but devastatingly effective, would prove to be this tournament's most important player. Salah made count the limited possession he got, setting up a decisive goal for Abdallah Said in the group game with Uganda and scoring a brilliant free kick four days later against Egypt. Another fine goal followed against Burkina Faso in the semifinal and the weighted pass for Mohamed Elneny against Cameroon appeared to have helped Egypt to glory.

Left attacking midfield: Christian Atsu (Ghana)

Atsu primarily operated on the right but, for the purposes of this team, would switch flanks regularly with Bassogog. Avram Grant, the outgoing Ghana coach, says he has never seen a winger as good in one-on-one battles as Atsu and that was certainly evident in the group stage, when he gave a masterclass in the first half against Mali and was instrumental in Ghana's early qualification. He was also excellent in the quarterfinal victory over DR Congo and, unlike many of his teammates, deserved more.

Striker: Junior Kabananga (DR Congo)

This was not really a tournament for strikers, even if the level of attacking intent was broadly satisfying. Kabananga, whose DR Congo side was eliminated by Ghana in the quarterfinals, finished top scorer with just three goals and that after the Astana striker started on the left of the attack. But he looked quick and strong, dominating defences. At 27 he looks like a footballer playing at his peak. As with several others on this list, a move elsewhere could follow.

Nick Ames is a football journalist who writes for ESPN FC on a range of topics. Twitter: @NickAmes82.


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