AFCON Power rankings: Best players so far after Round 1

By Innocent Benjamin

At the end of round 1, here are the best players at the African Cup of Nations so far.

Senegal players hug Sadio Mane after his winner at AFCON 2021

Following the first round of games in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations 2021, ZonalSports have curated a list of the 10 best players so far. 

Best Players in AFCON 2021 

1. Nouhou Tolo

The best player in the current African Nation Championships is relatively unknown left-back Nouhou Tolo, who plays outside Europe for Australian side Seattle Sounders. 

The 24-year-old went the distance for Cameroon as they wrung a vital win out of stubborn but clumsy Burkaina Faso. 

Just when the Stallions appeared satisfied to go into the break level, Nouhou Tolo's marauding runs into the box forced Issoufou Dayo to eventually bring him down. The resulting penalty was converted by Vincent Aboubakar. 

At the fringes of defence he was also largely impressiv despite witnessing his defence concede against the run of play. 

His 10 defensive actions comprising 4 successful tackles, 4 clearances and 2 blocked shots were the second highest in the game.

Tolo is also the joint-most fouled player in the AFCON so far. 

2. Mohammed Kamara

If there were scouts in Cameroon looking for a young goalkeeper who could keep his goal post relatively secure, they would have been more than impressed with the displays of 22-year-old Mohammed Kamara. 

Against an Algerian team that featured Riyahd Mahrez, Said Behnrahma and had not failed to find the back of the net in their last 25 games in all competitions, Kamara surely earned his bucks.

The goalkeeper made 7 saves, preventing the rampant Algerians from an expected goal of 1.2, according to Opta stats. No other goalkeeper has saved more shots than the Sierra Leonean. 

Interestingly, Kamara plays for lowly side, East End Lions, a club almost 100 times less valuable than Mahrez. 

3. Sofiane Boufal

With starman Hakim Ziyech out of the equation, Morocco manager, Vahid Halihodzic, and the rest of the world have stationed their eyes on Sofiane Boufal as the likeliest source of goals for the Atlas Lions.

And deliver he did. The former Lille and Southampton man, showed a nimble state of mind, when he reacted quickest to a loose ball in the Ghanaian box, breaking the heart of the Black Stars with just seven minutes to go. 

He also could have bagged an assist when he created a gilt-edged chance for Wolves defender, Romain Saiss, who failed to convert.

4. Vincent Aboubakar

Cogent. Composed. Clinical. Vincent Aboubakar has set the pace for the golden boot race with his two well taken penalties against Burkina Faso. 

With one of the most unique penalty routines you will ever see, Aboubakar maintained his coolheadedness on both occasions, twice sending a hapless Koffi the wrong way. 

A true leader donning the armband of this valiant (and muscular) Cameroon warriors, Vincent was the tireless engine that helped the Indomitable Lions to a face-saving opening day win. 

No player in the competition has currently attempted more shots than Aboubakar's six, with the 29-year-old also hitting the target the most number of times. 

5. Issiaga Sylla

The second-best defender of the 2021 AFCON so far is Guinea's Issiaga Sylla.

A midfielder by trade, Sylla has been deployed at left-back to accommodate a star-studded midfield lineup of Liverpool target Agibou Camara, Roma's Amadou Diawarra and technician Naby Keita. 

Despite this withdrawn positioning, Sylla was the goal-getter for Guinea in their 1-0 triumph over Malawi. 

The Toulouse man was also a creative outlet, fashioning several clear-cut openings which his teammates unfortunately failed to convert. 

6. Aly Keita

Remaining with the Guinean national team, goalkeeper Aly Keita was another player from the squad who enjoyed a fine outing especially after the Malawians turned up the screw.

As The Flames, which they are nicknamed, intensified the heat, they found an even hotter opposition in Keita who saved all six of Malawi's accurate attempts, the second most in the competition. 

7. Moreto Cassamá

Guinea-Bissau have been the most creative side in this year's AFCON so far, with five clear-cut chances constructed in their disappointing draw against Sudan. 

However, the team have only been afforded this luxury to bomb forward and overwhelm their opponents due to their energetic dynamo in the shape of Moretto Kasama. 

The 24-year-old midfielder completed 5 bone-crunching tackles against the Sudanese, the joint-third highest in the competition. 

But he has earned this dynamic nickname for his productivity in the final third of the pitch.

His four chances created against the Falcons of Jediane was deserving of at least one finish to cap off a fine evening. 

8. Sadio Mane

One of the big wigs ahead of AFCON's commencement, Mane has adapted to the throes and demands of African football with game-winning alacrity. 

Unlike his left-footed Liverpool teammate, Salah, who was smothered by a commanding Nigerian team, the 29-year-old did it all in attack for Senegal against a dogged Zimbabwean team. 

He completed 4 dribbles, created 5 chances and missed a big one himself, all before he converted a 97th minute penalty to send his side joint-top of Group B. 

His goal has now been cemented in African folklore as the latest in the competition's history. 

9. Gustavo Sanagre

Currently the joint-second most attacked, or rather, most fouled player in AFCON, Sangare was one of the impressive few in Burkina Faso's loss to Cameroon. 

Along with his penchant to incite opponents to commit fouls, Sangaré also ranks joint-third for interceptions made.

In attack he scored, created a great scoring chance for Issoufou Dayo and struck the woodwork. 

The 25-year-old would have left the Limbe stadium knowing it could have been a far better evening for him and Burkina Faso.

10. Jefferson Encada

Another product from Guinea-Bissau's impressive outing against Sudan, Jefferson Encada is the best right-back at AFCON after game round 1.

A menace to wingers, Encada's five interceptions is the joint-most in the competition, as he restricted Sudan from creating a single clear-cut opening. 

He is also the third most successful tackler in the competition with 5 tackles to match.

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