AFCON 2023 saw top stars falter: captains sidelined, goal-poachers silent, and key players benched, leaving fans disappointed and questioning.
The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) unfolded in Ivory Coast, delivering a whirlwind of emotions, triumphs, and heartbreaks.
While some players etched their names into the tournament's history with stellar performances, others found themselves at the center of disappointment and unfulfilled expectations.
21:00 - 30.01.2024
Sadio Mane has broken his silence on Senegal's AFCON exit reflecting on the team's performance and the emotional aftermath of the defeat.
Here, Pulse Sports unravel the stories of five top stars who failed to live up to the hype and left their mark in the competition for all the wrong reasons.
Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon)
As the captain of Cameroon, Vincent Aboubakar's absence during the group stage was palpable, leaving a void that the Indomitable Lions struggled to fill.
Hopes were high as Aboubakar declared his fitness ahead of the crucial Round of 16 clash against Nigeria. However, his late entrance in the 77th minute failed to turn the tide, and Cameroon succumbed to a 2-0 defeat, marking an early exit from the tournament.
06:00 - 09.02.2024
Despite semi-final exits, South Africa and DR Congo earned substantial prize money in the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
Aboubakar's delayed participation could not salvage the Indomitable Lions' campaign, leaving fans questioning what might have been if he had been fit from the start.
Sadio Mane (Senegal)
Anticipation surrounded Sadio Mane's journey in the AFCON 2023, with expectations of the goal-poacher leading Senegal to glory.
However, reality struck hard as Senegal faced an early exit in the Round of 16 through penalty shootouts.
Mane's efforts were commendable, with a crucial assist, marking his third in the tournament.
19:00 - 08.02.2024
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Democratic Republic of Congo players silently protested before their AFCON semi-final match against Ivory Coast.
Despite his individual success, the Teranga Lions fell short, and Mane's inability to rescue the team from the penalty spot left fans and pundits alike reflecting on what went wrong for Senegal in a tournament they had hoped to conquer.
Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)
Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez arrived at the AFCON 2023 with a reputation forged in the fires of stellar club performances.
However, the Al-Ahli winger failed to replicate his club form on the international stage as Algeria crashed out in the group stage.
Mahrez's subdued performances raised eyebrows, and his inability to spark the Algerian attack became a contributing factor in their premature exit.
The disparity between his dazzling club form and his lackluster AFCON display left fans puzzled and disappointed.
Jordan Ayew (Ghana)
Ghana's hopes hung by a thread in the Group C fixture, with a draw needed to keep their chances alive.
Jordan Ayew and the Black Stars found themselves on the wrong side of fate as the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon came from behind to secure a victory, confirming Ghana's early exit.
Ayew, a key figure in Ghana's attacking setup, failed to make a significant impact, leaving fans wondering if a different outcome could have been achieved with a more decisive performance from the Black Stars' talisman.
Mohamed Elneny (Egypt)
Egypt's journey in the AFCON 2023 was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, with Mohamed Elneny often watching from the bench.
Despite a late 2-2 draw against Cape Verde securing their spot in the Round of 16, Egypt's campaign was marred by inconsistency.
Elneny, a crucial midfielder, found himself sidelined in a critical game against DR Congo, which ended in a heartbreaking 8-7 penalty shootout loss.
The Pharaohs' decision to drop Elneny, coupled with the absence of the injured Mohamed Salah, left fans questioning the team's choices and lamenting what could have been with their star players on the field.