The 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations was the most competitive tournament in Africa’s history. Not only did the smallest teams impress immensely, but serial winners Nigeria also disappointed. With Morocco and South Africa clearly the best sides at the tournament it is understandable that players from their two teams make up the bulk of the team of the tournament.
Goalkeeper: Andile Dlamini – South Africa
Andile Dlamini has had brilliant last year. In November she was the best keeper at the CAF Women’s Champions League with Mamelodi Sundowns. She went the entire competition without conceding a goal, and has followed it up with an equally impressive WAFCON. Confident and composed, there is no better keeper on the ball than Dlamini.
RB: Hanane Ait El Haj – Morocco
Most of Morocco’s attacking threat this tournament has come from the flanks, namely from their full backs bombing down the wings. El Haj has developed in particular, an excellent relationship with Tagnaout ahead of her and was time and time again the most attacking full back in the competition.
RCB: Bambanani Mbane – South Africa
Named player of the season in the South African Women’s Super League, Bambanani Mbane had a similarly successful year with Sundowns and South Africa. She is strong in the air, confident in the tackle and has a superb passing range that allows for South Africa to play the beautiful football that they play.
LCB: Noko Matlou – South Africa
Noko Matlou was not originally meant to start in this tournament, but an injury to Gabriella Salgado allowed for the veteran to come in to partner Mbane. Having over 160 caps for South Africa, her experience was vital in seeing the side through the tournament.
Like her partner Mbane, Matlou is one of the technically gifted centre backs at the tournament. It makes sense considering that until 2014 she was a centre forward and is Banyana Banyana’s second top goals scorer of all time with 64 goals.
LB: Zineb Redouani – Morocco
Play her on the left, play her on the right, Zineb Redouani gets the job done. Despite being right footed, Reduoani showed her class when forced to play out of position on the other flank. That didn’t stop her from constantly getting up the wing to support the attack. At only 22 years old, the AS FAR Rabat defender has a bright future ahead of her as one of Africa’s best full-backs.
RCM: Refiloe Jane – South Africa
The South African Andrea Pirlo was at her magnificent best this tournament. Refiloe Jane at times played as a one-woman midfield and made it look easy. She is a tireless machine ahead of her defence and is the coolest head on the pitch at all times. She hardly ever put a foot wrong, whether in defending, or playing defence-splitting passes. The Sports Gazette’s pick as player of the tournament.
LCM: Ghizlane Chebbak – Morocco
Captain, creator, top-scorer; Ghizlane Chebbak has it all. She was unable to replicate her father’s achievement in winning the AFCON, but she was superb from start to finish. Chebbak possesses a range of passing seen no where else on the continent and from a deep position was Morocco’s chief chance creator. She compliments those talents with the best freekick in town. She can put a ball on a one Dirham coin and makes the Moroccans a threat from any dead ball situation.
RW: Rasheedat Ajibade – Nigeria
Nigeria had a tournament to forget, but Rasheedat Ajibade was as brilliant as ever. Picking up the mantle of talisman from the injured Asisat Oshoala, Ajibade was at times, Nigeria’s only threat going forward, but often that was enough. Whether playing as a midfielder, or on the wing, Ajibade is sensational.
She is a tireless force of energy, direct running and quality. The Atletico Madrid midfielder finished the tournament as joint top scorer and the only player to score three open play goals. Despite her red card in the semi-final loss to Morocco, she was the Super Falcons’ best player by a country mile.
CAM: Grace Chanda – Zambia
Zambia were the surprise package of the tournament, and they were spearheaded by a superb Grace Chanda. The number ten has it all. She is an excellent passer, unbelievably quick, and ruthless. Without Barbra Banda, the Copper Queens were relying on the Kazakh based player to pull the attacking strings and she stepped up to the challenge. Chanda was nominated for CAF player of the year along with Oshoala and Ajara Njoya, two of Africa’s greatest stars, and she has earnt her place at that top table
LW: Fatima Taganout – Morocco
One of the break out stars of the tournament, Fatima Tagnaout has a bright future ahead of her. The winger is a joy to watch, quick, tricky and in possession of a wand of a left foot, she was a constant threat in every match. She didn’t find herself on the score sheet this tournament, but she was top-assister, having set up three goals for the Atlas Lionesses. Another product of AS FAR Rabat, Tagnaout should be on the list of the top clubs in the world in search of a creative genius.
CF: Rosella Ayane – Morocco
In a tournament where it’s three star centre forwards were absent, it was instead hard work that won Rosella Ayane a spot in this team. She was not at her ruthless best in the tournament, only scoring twice, but her tireless running in every match and determination to create chances earned her a spot on this list.
She had a direct hand in four of Morocco’s four goals in the tournament, and despite not being able to understand her teammates through the language barrier, played the lone forward role very well. She also held her nerve in the biggest moment of the tournament to score the winning penalty in the semi-final shootout to send Morocco to their first ever final.
Coach: Desiree Ellis – South Africa
There could be no doubt who the coach of the tournament is. The back-to-back-to-back CAF coach of the year has put together the best side in South Africa’s history. Despite coming up against a head coach with far more pedigree in the final, it was the South African who get all her choices right.
In every big moment Ellis made the right choice. She outmanoeuvred Randy Waldrum and Nigeria, rotated her squad more than any other coach to rest key players, and made the right decisions when it mattered most. When Banyana Banyana had a dreadful first half against Zambia, she made the bold decision of a double half time substitute which transformed the game in her favour.
No one deserves the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations trophy more than Desiree Ellis.