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Goalkeepers: Big names and players to watch at AFCON 2023

With less than two weeks until AFCON 2023 kicks off, it’s time to take a closer look at the biggest names and rising stars heading into this prestigious biennial tournament. Today we’re focusing on goalkeepers in the first piece of this four-part series.

AFCON individual trophy winners
AFCON 2021 top scorer Vincent Aboubakar, best player Sadio Mané, and best goalkeeper Édouard Mendy | Photo credit: “Trophée CAN (5)” by Jeanpierrekepseu is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Big dogs

Édouard Mendy (Senegal)

Since his £16 million move from Chelsea to Al Ahli this past summer, Édouard Mendy has kept 11 clean sheets in 19 games in the league. He saved the decisive penalty in the 2021 final shootout, which allowed Sadio Mané to slot home the winner and hand Senegal their first-ever AFCON title. Mendy was also named the best goalkeeper of the 2021 tournament. As Senegal’s number one keeper for the past two AFCON tournaments, he’ll be looking to maintain his previous standards in this year’s edition.

Yassine Bounou (Morocco)

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Morocco’s 32-year-old veteran keeper made his national team debut over a decade ago. This will mark his sixth major tournament for the team. It’s been a busy 18 months for Bounou. From his heroics propelling Morocco to a semi-final run at the 2022 World Cup, to moving from Sevilla to Al-Hilal in August, and finally, to being named CAF Goalkeeper of the Year at last month’s awards. He comes into AFCON 2023 on a high with 12 clean sheets in his first 17 appearances in the Saudi Pro League. Luckily for The Atlas Lions, after an injury scare prompted his substitution at half-time on 4 December for Al-Hilal, ‘Bono’ returned for their next game and has played every minute since.

Mohamed El Shenawy (Egypt)

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Though some may question labelling Mohamed El Shenawy a ‘big dog’ as he has spent his entire domestic career in Egypt, it’s hard to argue against how instrumental he’s been for Egypt over the last five years. A hamstring injury ruled him out after the round of 16 at AFCON 2021. He was then stuck watching from the sidelines as Egypt fell just short in the final. Interestingly, Egypt’s manager, Mohamed Sobhi, made the choice to name four goalkeepers in his 27-man roster for this year’s tournament. El Shenawy’s spot seems secure for now, but with ample options on the bench, he must remain at his best to keep his role all tournament.

Players to watch

Lionel Mpasi (DR Congo)

Head coach, Sébastien Desabre, named three somewhat inexperienced keepers in his Democratic Republic of the Congo roster. The player most likely to take the starting spot is 29-year-old Rodez keeper, Lionel Mpasi. With seven caps in total for DR Congo, he’s started six of their last seven games, keeping clean sheets in three of those games. After DR Congo missed out on qualification for the 2021 tournament, strong performances from the Ligue 2 keeper are necessary for his side to progress this year, especially after being drawn into the same group as Morocco.

Anthony Mandrea (Algeria)

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Despite all three of Algeria’s selected goalkeepers being over the age of 26, only one has been to a major tournament and it’s not their recent number one. Anthony Mandrea only has 10 caps to his name since his national team debut in June 2022, but has started all of Algeria’s six previous matches. The Desert Warriors are undefeated over this period, winning four and drawing two. After a disappointing AFCON 2021, Mandrea is key to Algeria returning to winning ways and living up to the expectations. 

Tunisia’s goalkeeping quandary

Tunisia is perhaps the hardest side to guess who will start when their tournament kicks off. Head coach Jalel Kadri has used three different keepers in Tunisia’s last four games. He’s selected Mouez Hassen, Aymen Dahmen, and Bechir Ben Said for his roster, with only Hassen having more than 15 caps to his name. However, Hassen has only played once in the past two years for the national team set-up. Dahmen was the keeper for Tunisia’s three group-stage games at the 2022 World Cup, while Ben Said played all five games during their quarter-final run at AFCON 2021. Who gets the gloves come the 16th of January is anyone’s guess.

Watch out for the next part of this series reviewing defenders as we continue the countdown to AFCON 2023.


  • Julia Andersen

    Julia Andersen is an American living in London. Previously a health research coordinator with a master’s in public health (MPH), she is interested in the intersection of health, research, and sport. A Liverpool fan who regretfully named her dog Henderson, she also closely follows golf, baseball, and tennis.