ESPN's WAFU Cup of Nations Awards
Senegal walked away with the WAFU Cup of Nations title on Sunday, winning it on home soil after beating then-holders Ghana in a penalty shootout (one of many in the tournament).
While the sides in the Cup final were domestic-based versions of continental heavyweights, the Plate final was a story of success against the odds, as Guinea defeated tiny Cape Verde... also on penalties.
ESPN's Ed Dove reveals his tournament awards following a fascinating two weeks of African football.
Player of the Tournament: Ibrahima Drame (Senegal)
Already hotly tipped for a starring role ahead of the competition, the Diambars wonderkid didn't disappoint with a series of fine displays that showcased his technical prowess, agility and speed.
His raw qualities, plus the refinement he's received at the same Diambars academy that produced Idrissa Gueye, Kara Mbodj and Pape Souare among others, set him apart from many of the other players at the tournament.
Defenders continually struggled to deal with the wideman's movement and pace, while he was the decisive actor for Senegal in their semifinal victory over Mali, netting the first goal and then winning the penalty for the second after being brought down by the goalkeeper.
In truth, however, Drame shouldn't have been on the pitch at the time of his major contributions, after lashing out at a prone Issaka Samake earlier in the contest.
If he cannot iron out such displays of indiscipline, then the 17-year-old risks becoming the next Elhadji Diouf rather than the next Sadio Mane.
Honourable Mentions: Ousseynou Niang, Jean Moustet, Shafiu Mumuni
Coach of the Tournament: Maxwell Konadu (Ghana)
Many of the coaches in this competition have had to assemble squads out of players who are short of match fitness and sharpness, due to the varied programming of Africa's leagues.
However, none have had to contend with quite the same disruption as Konadu, coach of Ghana, where domestic football has been suspended since June 2018 due to the corruption scandal that has devastated the nation's game.
In this context, he did exceptionally well to guide this collection of players to the final, and the team grew dramatically into the competition after their unconvincing opening 1-0 victory over Gambia.
Ghana played an attractive style against Ivory Coast and in the second half against Burkina Faso, and Konadu's more unexpected decisions -- gambles, really -- largely paid off, and he was unlucky not to retain the title with the Black Stars.
Mumuni's mature displays justified his selection as captain, Augustine Okrah silenced the critics back home who complained about his inclusion with some inspired displays, and Eric Antwi Ofori vindicated Konadu's decision to stick with him ahead of first-choice Felix Annan.
Honourable Mentions: Lappe Bangoura, Janito Carvalho, Robert Lartey
Performance of the Tournament: Shafiu Mumuni (Ghana)
There have been some exceptional individual displays this tournament, notably Guinea's Moustet in his side's plate semifinal and final, Assane Mbodj in Senegal's opener, Mamaye Coulibaly in Mali's first match, but none were as impressive as Ghana's Mumuni against Ivory Coast.
The striker, who equalised in the Black Stars' quarterfinal victory over Burkina Faso, turned on the class in the semifinal victory over Ivory Coast, scoring three times in the space of 20 minutes.
It was the first time ever that a player had scored a hat-trick in the WAFU Cup, and Mumuni demonstrated his intelligent positioning to bundle home the first, and then twice met crosses -- one from the right, one from the left -- to head beyond Eliezer Ira Tape.
Throughout, Mumuni led the line effectively, worked hard, and was a key man for finalists Ghana.
"He's a wonderful striker with a lot of experience," Konadu told journalists. "[In the semifinal] we tried to use long balls, use our wingers to penetrate, and [Mumuni] did very well to get those goals."
Disappointment of the Tournament: Nigeria
The Super Eagles headed to Senegal accompanied by the typical expectations that come with being the biggest nation in the region, three-time finalists, and former winners.
They also had a point to prove, having been defeated 4-1 by Togo in the first leg of the African Nations Championship qualifier to leave their chances of featuring at CHAN hanging by a thread.
However, Nigeria failed to deliver at the WAFU Cup; they were defeated 2-1 by old foe Togo in their opener, with captain Mfon Udoh coming off the bench only to see a red card late on.
Dropping into the Plate competition afforded the not-so Super Eagles the chance to bounce back from that defeat, enjoy a longer run in the tournament against weaker opponents, and potentially even bring home some silverware.
However, against Cape Verde in the Plate quarterfinal -- a nation with a 40th of the population of Nigeria -- the Eagles again struggled for attacking cohesion and were dumped out on penalties.
The NFF claimed that this tournament was 'preparation' for the Olympics, the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations and the CHAN qualifying second leg, so if the Eagles perform better in these events -- as a result of the lessons learned in Senegal - then perhaps their WAFU campaign won't be regarded as such a failure.
Honourable Mentions: Goalkeeping, attendances
Goal of the Tournament: Nuno Rocha (Cape Verde)
Cape Verde were completely outclassed in their 4-1 opening defeat by the Ivory Coast, but they did produce the game's -- if not the tournament's -- moment of excellence, through experienced captain Rocha.
The languid central midfielder, who's recently returned home for the first time in a career that's been spent in Portugal, Romania, and Russia, was part of the Cape Verde squad that participated at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
Here, he took on the role of elder statesman in the team, and pulled one back for the islanders in the 60th minute when he picked a corner out of the sky with a delicious volley, on the swivel, over his shoulder, and sent the ball into the far corner of the net.
It was a genuine moment of technical excellence, and of magnificent invention, from the 27-year-old.
Honourable Mentions: Mumuni's second vs. Ivory Coast, Mali's Moussa Kone vs. Niger
Unexpected Fans Favourite of the Tournament: Liberia
The Lone Stars won over neutral spectators during their campaign in Senegal, in which they reached the semifinal of the WAFU Plate, defeating Niger in the process.
On the field, there was a vibrancy about the Lone Stars going forward that wasn't always present among other sides, even though they had a team full of youngsters, many of whom have primarily played in the nation's second division.
The likes of Kelvin Potis, Varney Dukuly and Varney Sando attacked positively, with pace and invention, while the fist pumping display of 'Rufus' Padmore -- who appeared as though he was about to pop with pride during the rendition of the national anthem 'All Hail, Liberia, Hail!' -- epitomised the desire and responsibility with which they approached this tournament.
I was also impressed when goalkeeper Alpha Jallow discreetly admonished right-back Karleo Anderson for disrespectfully starting to tie his shoelace during the Nigerian national anthem. The little details win people over.
Their players were ardent, articulate and sincere in their dealings with the media; with the poetic Theo Nimely, for example, delivering an impassioned full-time prayer, as the players -- Muslim and Christian alike -- knelt in a circle at the conclusion of their win over Niger.
Credit must also go to captain Terry Sackor, who responded to the local Senegalese children's appeal for water at the end of that victory by dishing out the team's water bottles among the supporters, throwing them up the side of the tribune for the children to catch.
In their finest hour, there was a dignity, a selflessness, and a humility about these players.
Another anecdote: I approached a French family, two middle-aged parents and a teenage daughter, sitting alone in one of the stands during Liberia's Plate semifinal against Guinea.
After enquiring as to how they'd found themselves here -- at such a relatively obscure fixture -- they told me they'd grown close to the Liberia squad over games of volleyball at the team hotel, and that the players had invited them along to watch the match, allowing them to travel on the Lone Stars bus.
The Lone Stars, and coach Robert Lartey, were a gleaming example of how a national team should conduct themselves while on international duty.