Sunday, February 8, 2009

African football team of the 90's and beyond: Africa XI

I am a big sports fan. I remember as far back as 1992, I started following football (soccer) very keenly. Yes, I know I started the other blog with that statement but hey, it's worth saying again. I presented my first eleven of players I have seen play. In this post, I will present my winning eleven first-team squad (with 5 reserves) of African players I've seen play. Positioning in football has changed, where we have players wearing jerseys 80, but we have the 11 positions on the field of play.

I think it's great we have African players challenging for world best these days. George Weah is still the only guy to do it (in 1995), but Abedi Pele, and Roger Milla were very good in their heyday as well. Samuel Eto'o was adjudged top 3 in 2005 too. Aight, first 11 is up.

#1 - Goalkeeper: Africa has always had some great goalies, but none have really gone to the pinnacle of club soccer (at least in Europe). Essam El-Hadary has been excellent though and he's been doing it for years. Honorable mention: Idriss Kameni, Tony Sylva, Richard Kingston. I was going to add Vincent Enyeama, but after he took 4 goals from the Black Stars at Brentford, he drops out. Wait, I still mentioned him abi? Great goalkeeper. :-)

#2 - Right-back: This one is a close one between Hatem Trabelsi, Geremi Njitap, and Celestine Babayaro. I will go with Geremi because he won more and he can take freekicks. Others - Frank Amankwah, etc

#3 - Left back: I am very tempted to take Taye Taiwo, I believe he's one of the best left-backs in the world right now though he's been in the spotlight much this year. I've always like Habib Beye since he emerged in the 2002 World Cup too. I'll go with Pierre Wome though. People remember him for missing the penalty that cost Cameroun a place in the 2006 World Cup but he's been one of Cameroun's mainstays this century and has played at the highest level.

#4 - Centre back: Samuei Osei Kuffour is the most celebrated African defender in recent times. He scored the goal to win Bayern Munich the World Club Cup in 2001. Others: Kolo Toure, Stephen Keshi, Mark Fish.

#5 - Centre back: The sweeper position has to be given to the no-nonsense Rigobert Song. He's been playing at a high level for a really long time and is one of the best captains/leaders out there. He'll be captaining this team too. He beats out Lucas Radebe, Taribo West, Noureddine Naybet, etc

#6 - Defensive midfielder: Michael Essien may be the most popular but I don't think he deserves this position over Sunday Oliseh. Or does he? He did win the best footballer in France a number of times. I'll take Essien because of his versatility though. Others: Papa Bouba Diop, Mahamadou Diarra, Marc Vivien-Foe, etc

#7 - Right-winger: Nigeria has produced a bunch of number 7's. I'll go with George Finidi. Moustafa Hadji was spectacular in 1998 and enjoyed a great career as well. Others: Tijani Babangida.

#8 - Attacking midfielder: Jay Jay Okocha is the man here. He is probably the best African player ever not to win the African footballer of the year award. He was a magician on the ball. I think we can have two magicians in the squad because we don't have that many creative midfielders in the wings. He beats out Mohammed Aboutrika, Doctor Khumalo,

#9 - Striker: This is definitely the toughest position to fill. Samuel Eto'o has been one of the most consistent strikers the world over the last few years. Tony Yeboah lit up the Bundesliga and the Premier league. Didier Drogba has been a mainstay in Chelsea's recent success. Roger Milla led Cameroun to Africa's best ever showing at the World Cup. They all lose out to George Weah though. George couldn't make much noise with Liberia but he did win the world's best player. For someone who plays for such a bad national team, this is quite an accomplishment. Coaches all over the world voted for him. Enough said. Others considered: Nwankwo Kanu, Benedict MacCarthy, Rashid Yekini, etc

#10 - Maestro (striker): This is for the creative midfielder, the dazzling trickster, the guy with the magic. We've seen a few magicians from Africa, but none have excelled like Abedi Pele. Before Samuel Eto'o did it, he won Africa's best player three times in a row (French award). With all the politics about adjudging Africa's best player, that's quite a statement. Other candidates: Rabah Madjer, Kalusha Bwalya, Hossam Hassan, etc

#11 - Left winger: Hate him if you want, but El Hadji-Diouf is one of the best African players I've seen and maybe the best winger. Others: Can't think of any.

Final list in a 4-4-2 formation - Hadary; Geremi, Kuffour, Song, Wome; Finidi, Essien, Okocha, Diouf; Weah, Abedi

Coach: Hassan Shehata has won his second straight African Nations Cup. In the era, where most African teams look to foreign coaches to lead them to glory, Egypt has stuck with Shehata and though he hasn't gotten them to the World Cup yet. Assistant coach will be Stephen Keshi.

Bench: Tony Sylva, Noureddine Naybet, Sunday Oliseh, Roger Milla, Rabah Madjer, Samuel Eto'o

Whew, this was really tough. Help me fill in with some of the other deserved names. Who do you think deserves a place in my starting eleven? What's yours? Watch out for the African winning eleven.

Also, who do you guys think is the best African player ever?
I am tempted to say George Weah but well all is said and done, it's going to be Samuel Eto'o.
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