AFCON 2021: Worst XI of the Group Stage

Eleven players who performed well below expectations at the Group Stage of AFCON 2021.

Pulse Sports worst XI of the AFCON 2021 Group Stage

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations is done and over with, and after 36 total games, there is more than enough information to dissect individual performances.

Pulse Sports already rewarded the outstanding players but here is a selection of the worst performers over the course of the Group Stage

Cameroon’s Andre Onana beat some stiff competition from Ghana’s Jojo Wollacott to emerge the worst goalkeeper at the AFCON 2021 group stage.

Fine: maybe “worst” is a bit harsh but, judging by his pedigree, Onana’s three games at the AFCON so far have been underwhelming.

Cameroon finished top of Group A, undefeated with seven points, but conceded three goals in the process, one in each game.

Thanks to Andre Onana, Cameroon are now the first host country to concede in all their Group Stage games since Tunisia in 1994. As mitigation, Tunisia only played two games as there were only three teams in a group back then. What is Onana’s excuse?

Algeria’s AFCON 2021 is up there with the worst title defences in the history of the beautiful game. They scored once, conceded four goals, failed to win and finished Group E with just one point.

While the attack has gotten its fair share of criticism, the Algerian defence seems to be getting let off the hook but not on my watch…step forward Aissa Mandi.

The 30-year old Villareal centre-back was supposed to be the glue that held Algeria together defensively. Judging by how things went for the Fennec Foxes, there are no prizes for guessing how that idea worked out.

Speaking of calamity, Ghanaian centre-back Daniel Amartey was another player for another historical African giant that underperformed in Cameroon.

Amartey did not commit any notable errors for a change, but he did little to stop opposition attacks either. His pairing with Alexander Djiku got split apart like the Red Sea on multiple occasions, especially in the draw against Gabon.

Another culprit of Ghana’s shoddy performance against Gabon was right-back Andy Yiadom, who lost six duels, conceded four fouls and failed to record a successful tackle, not even one.

He also has the misfortune of forever being in the highlight reel for Gabon’s late equaliser: he was the Ghanaian defender who was taken on a dance by Jim Allevinah before the Gabon forward slotted home in the 88th minute.

As bad as this sounds, the game against Ghana was Yiadom’s best of the three group games, which should give you an idea why he is on this list.

Sierra Leone’s AFCON 2021 campaign ended in a Group Stage exit, but if they had fielded a better left -back than Kevin Wright, they may have found a way into the Round of 16.

He was absolutely cooked by both Riyad Mahrez and Nicolas Pepe in the games against Algeria and Ivory Coast. Both teams set up their creative channels on the right and benefited greatly from Wright’s inability to keep up.

To be fair to him, it is not easy to keep Mahrez and Pepe at bay, as they are both among the best right wingers on the continent. However, did he fare much better against Equatorial Guinea who cannot boast of a world-class right winger? Hardly.

Equatorial Guinea’s man on the right, Iban Salvador, pretty much had a field day and Kevin Wright was among Sierra Leone’s lowest-rated players.

Senegal have failed to score a goal from open play in their first three games, they only have one goal in total. The team desperately lacks creativity and goalkeeper Eduoard Mendy is just as likely to score as their forwards based on how they have been playing.

While the coach gets the majority of the blame, the man he entrusted with the creative responsibility also gets some of it.

Buona Sarr often finds himself in crossing positions but somehow consistently fails to find anyone with the ball. At certain points, it looks like the Bayern Munich man is trying to miss his teammates.

In the three group games, Buona Sarr took 13 total corner-kicks and 32 total crosses of which only 11 were accurate. He would have to bump his output in the knockout rounds for Senegal to improve.

Not that anyone was expecting Mauritania to have world-class players but midfielder Almike N’diaye somehow managed to go below the already low expectations.

The 25-year old dropped back-to-back stinkers in the defeats to Gambia and Tunisia and was dropped by coach Didier Gomes Da Rosa.

You know you’re bad when you get dropped by Mauritania; there is a reason N’diaye plays in the French fifth division afterall.

In a tournament of disappointing headline acts, none disappointed more than Riyad Mahrez, who failed to score or assist a single goal in Algeria’s terrible AFCON outing.

The former African footballer of the year lacked his trademark cutting edge and failed to step up when his team needed him. The missed penalty against Ivory Coast sealed his inclusion as the headline act of this team.

It is always difficult to pin the misfortune of an entire team on one individual. Afterall, football is a team sport. However, we can all agree that Guinea-Bissau midfielder Pele is the reason they are out of the AFCON.

The 30-year-old, who is currently on the books of Monaco, missed a 78th minute penalty that would have won Guinea-Bissau the game against Sudan and given them three points, which could have sent them to the Round of 16.

Bear in mind Pele was having a poor game prior to the penalty miss. He was dropped for the remaining two games, not even used as a substitute.

Leading the line for the pre-tournament favourites and defending champions, not only did Baghdad Bounedjah fail to either score or assist, he failed to make any impact and the stats prove it.

Bounedjah came off the bench in the first game against Sierra Leone and shot the ball four times, with 25% accuracy. In the next game against Equatorial Guinea, he had just one attempt in 64 minutes and failed to shoot at all in 62 minutes against Ivory Coast.

What else can be said about Baghdad Bounedjah that has not already been said at this point?

Sadiq Umar is the only player on this team who actually scored in the Group Stage, which means he must have been really bad to make it into this team of not-so-elite AFCON 2021 ballers.

The Almeria striker drew the ire of Nigerians with his poor displays in substitute appearances against Egypt and Sudan.

Sadiq Umar displayed the composure of a giraffe on roller skates and his tap-in against Guinea-Bissau does not absolve him of his subpar performances.

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