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Ivory Coast crowned AFCON champions in thrilling final against Nigeria

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Ivory Coast

The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament is over, and what an exciting journey it has been. As we look back on the tournament, it's time to recognize the standout performers and form our Team of the Tournament. The Dream XI consists of players who impressed with their exceptional performances throughout the competition. Notably, finalists Ivory Coast and Nigeria have a strong presence in the lineup. So, without further ado, let's delve into the squad.

In goal, we have South Africa's goalkeeper, Williams, who showcased remarkable consistency in his performances. He kept five clean sheets in seven matches, solidifying his team's defense and making crucial saves when needed. Williams became the hero of the quarterfinal victory over Cape Verde, breaking an AFCON record by saving four penalties in the shootout.

Defensively, we have Troost-Ekong from Nigeria, who led the backline with composure and leadership. His organization and solid defending played a vital role in Nigeria's successful campaign, conceding only once from open play until the final. He even contributed offensively, netting important penalties against South Africa and in the group-stage victory over the hosts.

Joining Troost-Ekong in defense is Gaspar from Angola, who made a significant impact at the heart of the backline. He played a crucial role in securing clean sheets against Burkina Faso and Namibia. Gaspar's aerial dominance and defensive prowess were instrumental in Angola's journey to the quarterfinals.

Another strong defensive presence comes from Costa, Togo's young center-back. Costa, at just 23 years old, exhibited maturity beyond his years. He formed an excellent partnership with Roberto Lopes and showcased great potential to become one of Africa's finest defenders in the future.

Moving to the midfield, we have Adingra from Ivory Coast, who emerged as a breakout star. Although underused in the group stage, Adingra seized his second chance and left a lasting impact on the tournament. He provided creativity and scored a crucial equalizer against Mali in the quarterfinals before registering two assists in the final, guiding Ivory Coast to victory.

Sundowns' Mokoena from South Africa had an impressive tournament, excelling both defensively and offensively. His defensive contributions played a crucial role in South Africa's solid performances throughout the competition. Mokoena even found the back of the net, scoring against Morocco and netting a late penalty against Nigeria.

In the heart of the midfield, Kessié from Ivory Coast showcased resilience and stepped up during critical moments. He converted an 86th-minute penalty against Senegal, rescuing his team from elimination. Kessié's robust performance against Nigeria in the final played a significant role in Ivory Coast's comeback, eventually leading them to clinch the title.

Moutoussamy from Congo DR proved himself as a rare gem of a midfielder. Operating as a deep-lying midfielder, his versatility allowed him to have an impact going forward and even on the left flank. Moutoussamy's influence was vital, especially when the odds were against Congo DR.

On the wings, we have Lookman from Nigeria, whose guile and creativity troubled defenders throughout the tournament. Lookman's ability to create chances and finish them made him a standout player. He emerged as Nigeria's joint top scorer, netting all the goals in their victories over Cameroon and Angola.

Equatoguinean forward Nsue at the age of 34 defied expectations, becoming the tournament's top scorer. His versatility was evident as he played in multiple positions throughout his career. Nsue's hat-trick against Guinea-Bissau, followed by a brace against Ivory Coast, made him a driving force for Equatorial Guinea.

Leading the attack is Haller from Ivory Coast, who had a remarkable impact in crucial matches. Though he missed the group stage due to an injury, Haller made his presence known in the semifinals and final. His acrobatic goal against Congo DR secured Ivory Coast's place in the final, and his close-range finish in the ultimate showdown ultimately led to their tournament triumph.

On the substitutes' bench, we have exceptional players who narrowly missed out on the starting eleven. Nwabali (Nigeria), Masuaku (Congo DR), Dala (Angola), Mohamed (Egypt), Mudau (South Africa), Fofana (Ivory Coast), Seri (Ivory Coast), and Mvala (South Africa) all contributed significantly during their respective team's AFCON journey.

As the Africa Cup of Nations comes to a close, we applaud these players' outstanding performances throughout the tournament. Their skill, resilience, and determination have entertained fans and cemented their names in AFCON history. Until the next edition of the tournament, let's cherish the wonderful moments and look forward to more exciting football in the future.

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