Emmanuel Emenike – He was the surprise name on everyone’s lips this year – literally came out of nowhere to establish himself as Nigeria’s top striker, brushing aside Ikechukwu Uche, Obafemi Martins and the other pretenders.
His important goals for the Super Eagles led them to the AFCON final and World Cup qualification.
Ed Dove: Yaya Toure – My heart says John Obi Mikel, my head says Yaya. Mikel was the inspirational figure as Nigeria claimed the Cup of Nations and I was delighted with his influence on the fields of South Africa, particularly coming after his sterling performances for Chelsea in 2012.
Hopefully he can thrive for both club and country in 2014.
Despite being outclassed by Mikel in the AFCON quarter-final, Yaya has to be Africa’s Number One in 2013. He won the BBC African Player of the Year award and has added a certain refinement to the multitude of qualities he already possessed.
Team of the Year
: Ethiopia – Unheralded before 2013, the Walias returned to the continental stage for the first time in three decades and held us spellbound by the quality of their game. They were 180 minutes from qualifying for the World Cup but fell to a more experienced Nigeria side.
There’s a really bright future for the Antelopes.
Ed Dove: Nigeria – Had Al Ahly given a better account of themselves in the Club World Cup, they may have received acknowledgement here for their unlikely Champions League triumph.
Instead, it has to be Nigeria. Un-fancied at the start of the AFCON, the likes of Ghana or the Cote d’Ivoire looked much more like would-be champions.
Instead, coach Stephen Keshi re-ordered his side, overcame some shaky early results and crafted a team capable of conquering the continent.
I doubt any of us will ever forget it.
Breakout Star of the Yea: Victor Moses – He burst onto the international scene with Nigeria as the Super Eagles went on to win their third AFCON. I remember meeting a Cameroonian at the Johannesburg airport after the tournament who asked me: “What does Victor Moses smoke? That boy is too good!”
He also helped Chelsea to win the Europa League in his first season with the Blues.
Ed Dove: Ogenyi Onazi – The promise was clearly there in 2012, particularly in the Europa League, where Onazi’s fine performances saw Lazio escape the group stage.
He started the Cup of Nations as a back-up, but soon forced his way into the side, bringing stability with him. Over the next month he became an irreplaceable component of Stephen Keshi’s XI and was sorely missed during the Confederations Cup.
It will be fascinating to see how the 21-year-old progresses over the next 12 months.
Goal of the Year
Adesanya Olusesan: Sunday’s Mba’s game-winning goal against Cote d’Ivoire in the AFCON quarter-final. I watched from the media tribune and could not believe my eyes that we were going to win that encounter, such was the tension ahead of the game.
Ed Dove: John Obi Mikel’s fine finish against Uruguay deserves a mention, such was the precision of the execution. However, the goal that I have replayed the most in my mind over the last year has beenElderson Echiejile’s header against Mali.
The goal not only opened the scoring and set Nigeria on their way to victory and to the Cup of Nations final, it was also an aesthetic masterpiece.
Have another watch, it’ll make your day!
Moment/Match of the Year
Lolade Adewuyi: Ethiopia v. Nigeria in Addis Ababa – The locals were anticipating an upset and you could almost feel a victory was in the offing for the hosts. I was afraid for the Super Eagles due to the weather conditions in Addis Ababa.
Truly, the Antelopes played an impressive game in the first half and were unlucky not to be in front. However, with the Ethiopians’ freak goal in the second half, it took a breathtaking Emmanuel Emenike shot to get the Eagles back in the game.
That moment was one of the most important for me – there was a sudden quietness around the National Stadium and all over Addis Ababa and beyond, a key moment in the Eagles’ World Cup qualification journey.
Ed Dove: Ghana v. Egypt – The First-leg of the World Cup Qualifying play-off: A result that sent reverberations across a continent, if not the wider footballing world. 6-1 is an impressive score-line against almost any opponent, but for the Black Stars to record that result against a Pharaohs side that had torn through qualification unbeaten was just awesome.
Personally, this result, or rather, the fact that these two great African sides were drawn together in qualification, came as a great disappointment. I had hoped to see both of them representing the continent in Brazil.
Disappointment of the Year
Lolade Adewuyi: Personally, my one disappointment was Nosa Igiebor at the AFCON.
Before the tournament, I had expected so much more from him and expected him to come out among the best players. However, he lost confidence and looked like a misfit in the game against Burkina Faso before rightly losing his place to Sunday Mba, who went on to shine.
Ed Dove: Cote d’Ivoire – Having tipped Kwadwo Asamoah to be one of the star men during the Cup of Nations, it was a shame to see he and Ghana limp out so anonymously.
However, any of Ghana’s failings were trumped by the Cote d’Ivoire.
Once again the Elephants turned up with a swagger and a squad filled with big characters and major egos. Once again their confidence deserted them when the pressure increased and the Ivorians, their famous names weighing heavy on their backs, let another glorious opportunity pass them by.
The World Cup in Brazil may well be the Golden Generation’s last chance to leave a lasting impression.