AFCON 2023: Kudus and Hakimi top best XI after chaotic group stages

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AFCON 2023: Kudus and Hakimi top best XI after chaotic group stages

Achraf Hakimi had the best rating of any player during the AFCON 2023 group stage
Achraf Hakimi had the best rating of any player during the AFCON 2023 group stageAFP, Flashscore
It has been an Africa Cup of Nations to remember so far and with the knockout phase about to get underway, Flashscore looks back at the group stages to see who were the best players of that phase of the tournament.

Here is our team of the tournament, based on our ratings system, so far.

AFCON team of the tournament so far
AFCON team of the tournament so farFlashscore

Goalkeeper

Jesus Owono (Equatorial Guinea) - 7.4

One of the fairytale narratives of the group stage was Equatorial Guinea. They were ranked 88th in the FIFA world rankings and faced a tough task to get out of the group with hosts Ivory Coast and Nigeria to contend with. But, seven points from nine saw them top Group A and their keeper Jesus Owono was at the heart of it. He kept a clean sheet in their shock 4-0 win over Ivory Coast and has a shot to save percentage of 76.9%, showing he has been an important member of the side so far.

Can he continue this form going into the next phase of the tournament?

Defence

Achraf Hakimi (Morocco) - 8.2

Billed as one of the stars of AFCON, Achraf Hakimi has more than lived up to the hype with the highest average rating during the group stage. The PSG full-back scored one, assisted another and was part of a side that kept two clean sheets. 

Alongside this, he has won six tackles, but his group stage performances will be remembered for this.

Kialonda Gaspar (Angola) - 7.7

Angola, like Morocco, topped their group with seven points from nine and their best-rated player was Kialonda Gaspar at the heart of their defence. He had one clean sheet to his name in the opening three games, and he has the joint-most interceptions so far in the tournament, showing his presence of mind and good positioning.

His side will need more of that in the knockouts if they are to better their best performance in the tournament's history by getting past the quarter-finals.

William Troost-Ekong (Nigeria) - 7.7

Back to Group A, where Nigeria had to play second fiddle to Equatorial Guinea in the standings, but captain William Troost-Ekong stood out with his performances at the back.

Despite missing the last game and an indifferent performance in his opening AFCON game, he shone against the hosts Ivory Coast, putting in a man-of-the-match performance, even netting the winning goal from the penalty spot in the second half.

Evidently a big-time player for his nation, he will be expected to perform like that again during the knockout rounds.

Ali Abdi (Tunisia) - 7.7

Ali Abdi represents our first player who, despite being knocked out of the tournament at the earliest stage, still performed to a high level in the competition.

After sitting out their shocking opening loss against Namibia, Ali was a breath of fresh air in their draw with Mali, assisting Hamza Rafia for their only goal of the tournament. He also performed well in their crucial game against South Africa, but his side still crashed out.

Midfield

Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco) - 7.6

Back to Morocco and they had plenty of forward-thinking players to give them a threat during the group stages, but it was Azzedine Ounahi who shone brightest, based on our ratings system.

Never dropping below a seven so far at AFCON, his best performance came in the 3-0 victory over Tanzania, where he scored their second goal. Expect to see more of him as we enter the business end of the tournament.

Mohammed Kudus (Ghana) - 7.8

Our second heartbreaking tale of great performances with no end result is Mohammed Kudus. He and his Ghana teammates were perhaps the biggest casualty of the group stage, crashing out at the expense of Cape Verde.

He missed the opening game to the above nation, where his side lost 2-0, and he showed them exactly what they were missing in their next game, scoring twice in dramatic fashion as he tried to single-handedly save their tournament.

His sadness when he didn't was shown in their final group game against Mozambique where, despite winning man of the match, his face showed pain during the post-match interview. If Ghana are to start performing better in future AFCONs, Kudus will be at the centre of it.

Jose Machin (Equatorial Guinea) - 7.4

Three assists in three games is all you need to know about how much impact Jose Machin has had on this flourishing Equatorial Guinea side. It is the most by any player in the Ivory Coast so far and all three picking out a teammate with a composed pass. His side have scored the most goals in the tournament so far and a lot of that is down to Machin.

Forwards

Georges-Kevin N'Koudou (Cameroon) - 7.7

There is only one man who has matched Machin for creativity in AFCON and that is Georges-Kevin N'Koudou of Cameroon - he also has three assists for the tournament so far. His stoppage-time assist for Christopher Wooh - a beautifully whipped corner - saw them beat Gambia 3-2 in arguably the most thrilling encounter of the group stage with both sides knocking the other out at certain moments. His cool head under pressure in a vital moment produced a piece of quality and his side will need more of that as they look to improve when the knockout rounds start.

Emilio Nsue (Equatorial Guinea) - 7.7

The standout player of the tournament so far has been Equatorial Guinea's Emilio Nsue. The auxiliary forward, normally a right-back for his club side Intercity in Spain's third division, has netted the most goals of anyone with five in three games during his side's stunning group phase.

The most surprising element of his campaign has been his composure in front of goal. Most of his finishes have been poachers' efforts, and the experienced player will want to keep firing to keep his nation's hopes alive.

Mohamed Mostafa (Egypt) - 7.6

Egypt needed another Mohamed to stand up and be counted when talisman Mo Salah went down with injury and they found it in Mohamed Mostafa. 

The striker netted in each of their group games, the pick of the bunch came against Mozambique where a sharp turn and finish saw him fire the ball into the bottom corner. With Salah likely to not be fit until the final if the Pharaohs make it there, Mostafa will be vital to their cause to allow their icon to rejoin the squad.

Follow the knockout rounds of AFCON with Flashscore.

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