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Soccer News of Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Source: Team of the Tournament So Far


Lama (Angola) The Petro Atletico goalkeeper won the Angolan Girabola league with his club last season and Lama evidently packed that form and confidence in with his gloves when the Black Antelopes boarded their plane to Ghana. Could do nothing about Egypt's two goals in the quarter-finals but by that stage Lama's agility and organisational skills had already played an eye catching part in Angola's historic first qualification out of the CAN group stages.


Wael Gomaa (Egypt) Now playing in the lucrative but lazy Qatari league, Gomaa has clearly somehow maintained his remarkable fitness, awareness and aggression. Who says North Africans are lightweights? Not with this guy around- a true leader and a great defender. Stood firm against Cameroon and Angola to help the Pharaohs protect precious leads.

Danny Shittu (Nigeria) Another powerful centre-back, Shittu is every bit as hard as he looks. Several blows to the head did little to distract let alone subdue Shittu against Ghana and with eleven warriors like Shittu in the Super Eagles squad Nigeria would never surely never underachieve again. An intelligent defender too, with Yobo alongside Shittu at the back Nigeria only conceded three goals in four potentially high-scoring games.

Hans Sarpei (Ghana) Understated and thus underrated, Leverkusen's Sarpei is two footed and can (and does) play anywhere across the back four for Ghana. His fellow defenders Mensah, Addo and particularly Pantsil have all had their lapses in this tournament but the unfussy Sarpei has invariably been on hand to clear up the danger.


Michael Essien (Ghana) Started slowly with a low-key opening performance against Guinea but thereafter reverted to his energetic, omnipresent self. Scored fine and decisive goals against first Morocco and then Nigeria and then helped the Black Stars out in defence following Mensah?s quarter-final sending off. So powerful,so much energy.

Sulley Muntari (Ghana) Muntari has really matured. Now channelling his energy for the good of the team rather than in seeking retribution against opposition players, the Portsmouth star now wants to lead the charge in every game. Muntari is dominating midfields, winning 50-50s, scoring goals and making chances for others.

Yaya Toure (Cote d'Ivoire) Another player improving his decision making with every game and taking more personal responsibility all the time, Yaya is no longer the sitting player in the Ivorian midfield. Dider Zakora is now the pivot bringing the ball out of defence and giving the ball to Yaya to break and create. Yaya has been integral to the Elephants? expansive game and been involved in many of their goals.

Stephane Mbia (Cameroon) Rigobert Song has tipped the Rennes midfielder to reach the very top and Mbia has already overshadowed Song?s nephew- the also impressive Alex Bilong- in this tournament. The pair have dovetailed excellently since Song?s belated half-time introduction against Egypt in The Indomitable Lions opening fixture and Mbia?s efforts were rewarded with his brace of goals in the exciting quarter final victory over Tunisia.


Manucho (Angola) The tournament?s top scorer with four goals at the time of writing, Manucho?s class belied the statistic of just two international strikes and ten caps prior to Angola?s Ghana ?08 campaign. A good job Manchester United snapped him up before the tournament started otherwise his market value would surely have jumped ten fold by now. Strong in the air and on the ground and lethal from close range and thirty yards out, we have learned a lot about Manucho, and all of it good

Salomon Kalou (Cote d?Ivoire) It now seems a long time since Ivorian prodigy Kalou was lobbying politicians in Holland to secure Dutch citizenship in time for the Germany 2006 World Cup. His older brother Bonaventure was only popular with the boo boys in his international playing days but Salomon became a national hero with his dizzying individual winning goal against Nigeria and has not stopped scoring since. An old-fashioned ?classic? African forward intent on dribbling at every opportunity, Kalou is both a breath of fresh air and a blast from the past.

Didier Drogba (Cote d?Ivoire) Rapidly becoming ?the great? Didier Drogba, the Chelsea forward?s on-the-pitch influence has risen with the tournament as his knee injury has gradually recovered. Still not at 100% but the captain?s aura alone is such a catalyst for the team and their supporters. The focal point of the most formidable attack in Africa, when Drogba says he only failed to retain his CAF player of the year title because he was unable to attend the ceremony you can only believe him.

Lama (Ang)

Shittu (Nig)       Gomaa (Egy)     Sarpei (Gha)

Mbia (Cam)   Essien (Gha)   Y. Toure (IC)    Muntari (Gha)

Kalou (IC)

Drogba  (IC)      Manucho  (Angola)

Subs: Kameni (Cameroon), Yobo (Nigeria) Fahti (Egypt) Feindoundo (Guinea), Eto?o (Cameroon), Keita (Cote d?Ivoire) Agogo (Ghana)

Barney Cullum