Top Five: African football moments of 2017


KweséESPN reviews the last 12 months of action in the continental game and picks out our top five moments from the year that was.

These were the occasions that took the breath away, that encapsulated an unforgettable narrative, or that had historical impact beyond the moment in which they were bound.

Which of these moments left the biggest impression on you this year?

Cameroon's Africa Cup of Nations final comeback: The Indomitable Lions, traditional African giants, ended a 15-year wait to win the continent's grandest club prize when they defeated Egypt in the February in Libreville.

Hugo Broos's side headed into the tournament billed as the worst Cameroon side in a generation but steadily improved throughout the tournament, eliminating both Senegal and Ghana in the knockouts.

Nonetheless, they were outsiders heading into the final against Egypt, and even more so when Mohamed Elneny put the Pharaohs ahead after 22 minutes and centre-back Adolphe Teikeu was replaced with injury after half an hour.

However, demonstrating the remarkable team spirit that had seen them overcome the odds repeatedly through the tournament, Cameroon rallied in the second half, with Nicolas Nkoulou equalising just before the hour mark.

Vincent Aboubakar - a player overlooked by Broos for much of the tournament - stepped up to the fore at the death, pirouetting to slam a delicious volley past Essam El-Hadary two minutes from time.

Nigeria 4-2 Argentina: Another comeback that we can't overlook is the Super Eagles' recent triumph over heavyweights Argentina.

It may have just been a friendly, but there's history between these two sides, and sentiment runs deep.

When La Albiceleste tore into a 2-0 lead, it looked as though much of the progress made and the invincibility established under Gernot Rohr had been exposed.

However, demonstrating the kind of resolve that they'd hinted at but never actually needed to employ during their World Cup qualifying campaign, the Eagles responded in some style, ultimately bouncing back to win 4-2 after an Alex Iwobi double and goals from Brian Idowu and Kelechi Iheanacho.

2017 was a year of many outstanding Nigeria performances, and the victory over Cameroon could easily have made this list.

Nonetheless, the Eagles' second-half showing against Argentina was a joy to behold, and demonstrated that, even against the very best at the World Cup, Rohr's young team have the quality to win and...crucially...to bounce back in the face of adversity.

Ahmad replaced Hayatou after 29 years: The single most momentous day of the year in African football - and an argument could be made that it was the biggest landscape shift in the continent's game in several decades - came on March 16 2017.

That was the day when Africa's delegates voted to end Issa Hayatou's seven-term reign as head of the continent's footballing governing body, and instead point Madagascar's Ahmad Ahmad in his stead.

The 57-year-old has promised to bring about meaningful change following the three-decade reign of Hayatou, although it will take time to judge whether the Malagasy chief will truly be a force for positive change within CAF.

Keita Balde's hat-trick: There are several moments of outrageous individual brilliance from African players during 2017, with Naby Keita's winner against the Ivory Coast and Sofiane Boufal's strike against West Bromwich Albion both deserving of an honourable mention.

However, neither of those two achievements quite matched what Balde achieved on April 23 2017.

The 22-year-old Balde has flattered to deceive at times during his career to date, since being axed from a Barcelona youth team tour in 2010 after playing a practical joke on a teammate.

While there have been signs that he was primed to finally deliver on his outrageous talent after signing for Lazio in 2013, it was only this season that fans of the continental game were treated to an absolute Balde masterclass.

During a remarkable month from the end of April until the end of May, Keita scored eight in five Serie A games for Lazio, kicking off his sensational run with a hat-trick against Palermo - the fastest in the history of the Italian top flight - in a 6-2 triumph.

The fact that Balde scored three goals between the 21st and the 26th minute obviously earned him the affection of the Lazio fans again after a testing time between the two parties, while a double in the subsequent derby victory over AS Roma was an ideal tonic after some fraught months of contractual disputes.

Ultimately, the Senegal international departed Lazio for Monaco, but his outstanding spell of form in April and May demonstrated that he may yet be Africa's next great footballing superstar.

Mohamed Salah vs. Congo-Brazzaville: Surely the greatest moment in African football this year came in October, when Salah single-handedly fired Egypt to their first World Cup since 1990, ending a 28-year wait for a return to the grandest stage of all.

Comfortably the Pharaohs' outstanding player, the attacker had already scored three of Egypt's five goals en route to their penultimate fixture, notably beating Denis Onyango in Alexandria to see the North African giants past a dogged Uganda side.

Against Congo, with the tantalising prospect of a World Cup berth just a win away, Salah fired Egypt into the lead before they duly threatened to throw it away when Arnold Bouka Moutou equalised in the 88th minute.

A 95th minute penalty awarded for the hosts offered the prospect of redemption, and it was Salah, undeterred throughout, who stepped up to slam the spot kick home past Barel Mouko to end the Pharaohs' wait for the World Cup and prompt outrageous scenes of celebration across the country.

For the intensity, the drama, the narrative and, most importantly, the historical significant, it surely has to be the greatest moment in African football this year.