William Troost Ekong: Players Who Won AFCON Player of Tournament Despite Losing Final

William Troost Ekong: Players Who Won AFCON Player of Tournament Despite Losing Final

Martin Moses
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM
In this article:
William Troost-Ekong logo
W. Troost-Ekong
PAOK Saloniki logoDNigeria logo
Christian Atsu logo
C. Atsu
Al-Raed SFC logoMGhana logo
Jonathan Pitroipa logo
J. Pitroipa
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CAF Africa Cup of Nations logo
  • William Troost-Ekong is the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations Player of the Tournament
  • He won the coveted award despite his Nigerian side losing the final to Ivory Coast
  • Several Golden Ball winners got the individual award despite losing in the finals

When William Troost-Ekong rose highest to fire Nigeria ahead in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final, the PAOK defender thought he had done enough to win the trophy for his side.

The Super Eagles' defence had been solid the whole tournament, and many expected them to hold firm and win their first title since 2013. But the hosts, Ivory Coast, had other ideas.

William Troost-Ekong, Christian Atsu, AFCON Golden Ball, Abedi Pele, Benni McCarthy, Roger Milla
William Troost-Ekong poses with his AFCON 2023 Best Player of the Tournament Award alongside CAF President Patrice Motsepe. Photo by Daniel Beloumou.
Source: Getty Images

Franck Kessie and Sebastian Haller scored a goal apiece to complete Ivory Coast's fairytale turnaround of a near elimination to champions.

Despite the defeat, Troost-Ekong received his deserved plaudits as CAF President, Patrice Motsepe, awarded him the Player of the Tournament Award. The centre-back captained the side in the absence of Ahmed Musa.

While winning the tournament always boosts one's chances of winning the 'player of the competition', it is not always a given. Sports Brief looks at the other examples where a player was a beaten finalist, but CAF overlooked that to award him Player of the Tournament.

AFCON best player winners despite final loss

1. Christian Atsu - Ghana 2015

The late versatile winger was the face of Ghana's attack at the 2015 AFCON staged in Equatorial Guinea. Atsu's gameplay dazzled the panel despite not finishing first in the goals or assists charts.

Ghana were beaten by Ivory Coast in a penalty shoot-out. Then playing for Premier League side, Everton, Atsu also won the goal of the tournament, as captured on Ghana's Football Association website.

2. Jonathan Pitroipa - Burkina Faso 2013

Burkina Faso's run to the 2013 final, where they lost to Nigeria, was centred around Jonathan Pitroipa and Aristide Bance. The latter came alive in the later stages of the tournament, especially in the quarter-finals against Togo.

There was some disquiet as to why John Obi-Mikel was overlooked in the award.

3. Benni McCarthy - South Africa 1998

Two years after winning their first continental title, Bafana Bafana reached the final again in Burkina Faso, where they lost to Egypt.

Benni McCarthy was the joint top-scorer at the tournament, and for his efforts, he was rewarded with the Player of the Tournament award.

4. Abedi Pele - Ghana 1992

Abedi Pele scored three goals in the tournament in Dakar, with only Nigeria's Rashid Yekini having more. He was, however, suspended for the final against Ivory Coast, with the Black Stars losing on post-match penalties.

Despite his absence in the final, he was still voted the best player of the competition.

5. Roger Milla - Cameroon 1986

Roger Milla led the top-scoring charts in the tournament hosted and won by Egypt. The Cameroon striker scored four goals but could not conjure up a moment of magic in the finals as they lost in the shoot-outs.

6. Fawzi Al-Issawi - Libya 1982

Libya reached the final on home soil but lost to Ghana. Fawzi Al-Issawi was declared the best player for the tournament ahead of the top scorer, George Alhassan.

Ronwen Williams wins CAF award

At the same time, Sports Brief reported that Ronwen Williams won the Golden Glove after keeping five clean sheets in South Africa's third-place finish.

The Mamelodi Sundowns keeper was the outright winner after his competition, Stanley Nwabali, conceded twice in the final against Ivory Coast.

Equatorial Guinea's Emilio Nsue won the Golden Boot, while Ivory Coast's Simo Adingra was declared the best young player of the 2023 competition.

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Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)
Benni McCarthy