21 January 2017

Africa Cup of Nations Pantheon of Heroes

Photo: Daily Monitor
Cameroon team players and Cameroon's Belgian coach Hugo Broos (C) celebrate after beating Egypt 2-1 to win the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final.

The African Nations Cup finals have often been the platform for heroes to be born and reputations made in their 60-year history.

And football fans love nothing more than a hot marksman, a player who bangs in the goals and acts as a match-winner in the most thrilling of ways.

AllAfrica takes us back through history to find the top five marksmen at a single tournament over the last six decades.

1974 - NDAYE MULAMBA (ZAIRE): NINE GOALS

Mulamba holds the distinction of having netted the most goals in a single tournament when he led Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) to the title 43 years ago.

His nine goals came from six matches, with the next highest scorer in the finals Ali Abo Greisha from hosts Egypt with just four goals.

Mulamba was a 21-year-old forward at the tournament and opened his campaign with a brace of goals as Zaire defeated Guinea 2-1. He got another in their final pool match, a 4-1 thumping of Mauritius.

Mulamba added another brace in a 3-2 semifinal victory over a stunned Egyptian side, which set up a final against Zambia.

The decider finished 2-2 with the striker getting two more, before he netted a brace in the replayed final as Zaire won 2-0.

1970 - LAURENT POKOU (COTE D'IVOIRE): EIGHT GOALS

Cote d'Ivoire could only manage fourth place at the 1970 Nations Cup but did bag the top goal-scorer and most valuable player prize for their striker 22-year-old Pokou.

Pokou would later go on to be a prolific forward for French club Rennes, but before that dazzled at the Nations Cup.

He netted two goals in the Ivorians' opening 3-2 loss to Cameroon, but then bagged a remarkable five goals as the west Africans defeated Ethiopia 6-1.

It was one of the great individual performances in Nations Cup history.

The Ivorians were beaten 2-1 by Ghana in the semifinals, before Pokou got his eighth goal of the competition in a 3-1 loss to United Arab Republic (now Egypt) in the bronze medal match.

Pokou passed away on November 13 last year at the age of 69 after a long illness.

1998 - BENNI MCCARTHY (SOUTH AFRICA) AND HOSSAM HASSAN (EGYPT): SEVEN GOALS

Youngster McCarthy and experienced forward Hassan finished joint top-scorers at the finals in Burkina Faso with seven goals each, the most scored in a finals tournament since Mulamba 24 years previously.

Both players led their teams to the final, where Egypt eventually triumphed 2-0, with Hassan scoring after five minutes of the decider.

He earlier scored twice in a 2-0 win over Mozambique in Egypt's first match of the campaign, before adding a hat-trick in their next game, a 4-0 win over Zambia.

Aside from his final goal, he also netted twice in a 2-0 semifinal victory over hosts Burkina Faso.

A 20-year-old McCarthy remarkably netted four goals in just 13 first half minutes of South Africa's 4-1 victory over Namibia in their final pool game. It remains the only hat-trick in the history of Bafana Bafana.

He got another in the 2-1 quarterfinal win over Morocco, and then both goals as South Africa beat DR Congo 2-1 after extra time in their semifinal.

1963 - HASSAN EL-SHAZLY (UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC): SIX GOALS

El-Shazly only played in three matches at the 1963 Nations Cup but remarkably netted six goals as United Arab Republic (now Egypt) finished third.

The 19-year-old got four goals as they opened their campaign with a 6-3 win over Nigeria, before adding a another in a 2-2 draw with Sudan.

That result saw the side finishing second in their pool and play in the bronze-medal match 3-0 over Ethiopia, with El-Shazly getting another goal.

The attacking midfielder was a one-club man, playing his entire career for Tersana in Egypt, which he later managed. His record of 176 goals for the club is still an Egyptian top-flight record.

He scored 39 goals in 52 caps for his country between 1961 and 1974. El-Shazly passed away in April 2015 at the age of 71.

1968 - LAURENT POKOU (COTE D'IVOIRE): SIX GOALS

Before his exploits in 1970, a teenage Pokou scored six goals for Cote d'Ivoire in the 1968 finals.

His tally of 14 goals in the two tournaments was a record for the Nations Cup until it was bettered by Cameroon star Samuel Eto'o in the 2008 finals. Eto'o ended his career with 18 goals. Pokou remains the second highest all-time marksman.

Pokou was so good that the Brazilian great Pele anointed him "my successor", though he was also later banned for two years, reduced to six months on appeal, for kicking a referee.

He scored a brace of goals in the Ivorians first game of the 1968 finals, a 3-0 win over Algeria, and added another in a 2-1 win over Uganda.

He scored two in a dramatic 4-3 loss to Ghana in the semifinals, and rounded out his competition with the winner in a 1-0 victory over Ethiopia to claim the bronze medal.

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