1xBet talks about the footballers whose great performance in the stadiums of Qatar gave unforgettable emotions to the entire continent.
Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia)
Money doesn’t play football – perhaps even the famous investor Warren Buffett will not argue with this statement. However, we were very pleased to see how Wahbi Khazri, the player of the Tunisia national team and the French Montpellier (transfer value – 3 million euros according to Transfermarkt) receives the ball, avoids contact with Youssuf Fofana (€25 million), beats Rafael Varane (€40 million) and strikes Steve Mandand (€1.5 million) on goal a quarter of a second before Axel Disasi (another €25m) crashes into his leg. The Moroccan team didn’t score other goals during this World Cup, but this ball ensured its victory over the current world champions!
It’s amazing, but this smart, perfectly seeing-the-field, and two-footed footballer with the good technique could come to Qatar as part of the French national team. He was born in Ajaccio, started playing in the football academy of this club, and spent almost his entire career in France. In 2011, he was first called up to the Le Bleus youth team, but Khazri’s prospects in the French national team looked vague and two years later he played his first match for the Tunisia national team.
In Qatar, Wahbi Khazri entered the starting lineup of his team only in the final match of the group stage against France (while he was entrusted with the captain’s armband), scored only one goal, and after the match announced the end of his carrier for the national team. Well, shooter, you won’t get a better shot.
Review of the match Tunisia – France can be viewed here:
Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal)
It was rather difficult to determine the best player in the Senegal squad. In the match against the Netherlands, we liked the actions of the defensive midfielders more – until goalkeeper Edouard Mendy made a mistake in the 84th minute, the opponent did not have shots on target. Qatar was the weakest team on Mundial, and in the 1/8 final match against England, Senegal had no chances. So the most important game for the Lions of Teranga was against Ecuador and center-back Kalidou Koulibaly became the main character of this show.
In that match, Senegal took the lead after a penalty. However, in the 67th minute, something happened that Coulibaly hardly wants to tell his grandchildren about: after a corner, he failed to win the fight vs Felix Torres for the top ball and Torres dropped to Caicedo who had only not to miss from arm’s length.
Just think: you are a huge (195 cm, 89 kg) central defender with a lot of experience at the highest level, you have a contract with Chelsea and a captain’s armband, and you are jumped over by some guy from the Mexican club Santos Laguna, which is 8 cm below you.
Fortunately for everyone, Kalidou rehabilitated himself in just three minutes, scoring the decisive goal after a free-kick. This ball proved to be the winner and helped Senegal qualify from the group, while FIFA recognized Koulibaly as “Man of the Match”.
Must add that Kalidou entered the game with an unusual captain’s armband: in memory of Papa Bouba Diop, the 19th number was displayed on it. Diop helped Senegal reach the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup and died exactly two years before the match against Ecuador. Also, the Senegalese carried a banner with a portrait of Diop and the inscription “True lion never dies” on the field.
Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon)
Without any reservations, this Abubakar was the best player in Cameroon in this World Cup and deserved the right to stay in Qatar for a longer period. In his first match against Switzerland, the Saudi Al-Nasr player replaced Erik Choupo-Moting in the 74th minute and didn’t have time to influence the outcome of the match. In the next game, Vincent was released on the field as a firefighter – immediately after Serbia took a 3-1 lead. As a result, Cameroon gave a wonderful comeback: Abubakar scored one of the most beautiful goals of this championship (did you forget this incredible scoop?) and gave an assist to Choupo-Moting. And finally, the icing on the cake is the match against Brazil, which was deservedly considered one of the main contenders for the title. The Brazilians have two victories in two matches, a wonderful mood, and are beginning to methodically break the wall of the Indomitable Lions. However, they were not lucky – either because of the absence of several attacking leaders on the field or because of the brilliant play of goalkeeper Davis Epassi. But Abubakar was lucky – in the 92nd minute of the game his excellent dash into the opponent’s penalty area ended with a cool header after Mbekeli’s cross! Is it worth mentioning that Abubakar came to this match with the captain’s armband?
Celebrating the goal scored, Abubakar took off his jersey. The referee did not want to punish him, but the rules are the rules: Vincent received a second yellow card and went to relax, shaking hands with the referee. For the first time in our lives, we saw how a sent-off player leave the field with a joyful smile – Abubakar understood that he was leaving the field as a hero who did everything possible for his team to win.
Mohammed Kudus (Ghana)
The case when dreams come true – the scouts of the Danish club Nordsjælland noticed this guy at the Ghanaian football academy with the catchy name Right to Dream in 2018. Kudus made his debut in the club’s senior team a few weeks before his 18th birthday, and two years later, Ajax Amsterdam bought his contract for 9 million euros – at that time it was a record amount paid for a teenager from Ghana.
Ajax is known for its ability to develop young players and resell them to top clubs with great profit. We believe that in the case of Kudus, they were not mistaken – in Qatar, this fast and technical left-footed winger gave an assist in the game vs Portugal, scored a double in the match against Korea, and earned a penalty in the struggle with Uruguay (perhaps the coaches of the Ghana national team need to organize a special seminar “How to score penalties against Uruguay goalkeepers at the World Cups”). In any case, Kudus left a great impression and we are confident that he has a great future ahead of him. By the way, this is the youngest player on our list – now he is only 22 years old.
Goalkeepers like Yassine Bounou (also known as Bono) are said to have to “miss their own goals”. Bono was born in Canada, returned to Morocco as a child, proved himself in the local Wydad, attracted the attention of Atlético Madrid, signed a contract in 2012, and had no chance to play even a single game for the first team in official matches. Bono spent the next five years on loan, delighting the fans of the second Spanish division with his successes, and only five years later he played his first match in Primera – at that time he played in Girona. In the following season, Gerona flew to the Segunda, but for the Moroccan goalkeeper this tragedy was the beginning of the ascent to the football heights – he was rented by Sevilla.
In his first season at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Bono became the team’s main goalkeeper and won the Europa League. After that, Sevilla bought out his contract and didn’t regret it: in the Primera, the team finished in fourth place for three years in a row – this is the Champions League zone. Also, in the 2021/2022 season, Bono won the Trofeo Ricardo Zamora – a prize for the best goalkeeper of the Spanish championship (for the last 10 years, Jan Oblak, Thibaut Courtois, or Claudio Bravo have received this award).
The Moroccan team came to the World Cup in Qatar with excellent defenders – Achraf Hakimi from PSG, Nussair Mazraoui from Bayern, Nayef Aguerd from West Ham and Romain Saiss from Wolverhampton need no further introduction. The Atlas Lions’ well-organized and well-thought-out defensive play allowed Bono not to exert himself too much – if this thesis applies to World Cup matches at all. 1 save in the match with Croatia, 3 against Belgium, zero vs Canada, 1 against Spain and 3 in the battle with Portugal – you must admit, these statistics are not very impressive (if you don’t remember that Belgium has the second place in the FIFA ranking of national teams, Spain – the seventh, and Portugal – the ninth). But a great keeper can’t always sit behind the backs of his defenders and from time to time must show what is he got. And in the match against Spain, Bono showed it to the whole world, making three saves in the penalty shootout and repeating the achievement of the famous Ukrainian goalkeeper Alexander Shovkovsky at World Cup 2006. As a result, his team became the fourth national team from Africa, which made it to the quarterfinals of the World Cup – before Morocco, only Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002, and Ghana in 2010 managed to do this.
Everyone thought that after the quarter-final match against Portugal, the adventures of Morocco in Qatar would be completed. However, in the first half, center forward Yousef En-Nassiri managed to jump over the Portuguese goalkeeper and open the scoring. Well, then Bono again demonstrated his skills – excellent reaction, confident play on the exits, and calmness (nervous keepers can please only psychologists who need money) making Morocco the first African team that got into the top four national teams of the planet. By the way, Bono’s game was also noted by FIFA experts – the matches against Spain and Portugal brought the Moroccan goalkeeper two Man of the Match awards.
Perhaps the experts who help determine the best football player in Africa are also ready to give the right answer.