African goalkeepers have got a bad rep over the years, with negative stereotypes pervading around the continent’s stoppers despite the emergence of players such as Thomas N’Kono, Joseph-Antoine Bell, Badou Ezzaki, Bruce Grobbelaar and Vincent Enyeama.
At the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations, the continent’s finest shot-stoppers will get the opportunity to demonstrate—before a global audience—that they are among the world’s finest in their position, and that the long-standing stereotypes and prejudices ought to be put to bed once and for all.
Here are Goal’s Top Five goalkeepers heading for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Mohamed El Shenawy
El Shenawy has had to wait for his turn between the sticks for the national side, with competition and—particularly—the looming shadow of Essam El Hadary limiting him to just nine caps to date.
He was the beneficiary of Sherif Ekramy’s injury ahead of the World Cup, and he started the first two disappointing group games for the Pharaohs before El Hadary became the tournament’s oldest player against Saudi Arabia.
Since then, El Shenawy was restored to the starting spot by Javier Aguirre, and even though he hasn’t played in the last four games as other options have been assessed, he’s expected to start their opener against Zimbabwe on Thursday.
Certainly, the experienced Al-Ahly Number One will be desperate to make amends for a disappointing World Cup showing on home soil.
The 28-year-old is another who’s been made to wait his turn with the national side, with Herve Renard using both Bounou and Munir during his tenure as national team boss.
It’s the Girona man who should get the nod for the Nations Cup, however, having started three of the Atlas Lions’ last four matches.
Despite his callow frame, Bounou commands his area well, as he demonstrated in exceptional performances against Valencia, Leganes and, notably, Real Madrid this term.
With Morocco’s defence looking a little nervy in recent matches, he’ll need to also show his leadership skills and ability to organise those ahead of him.
Onyango was described by Orlando Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic as Uganda’s ambassador to South Africa, such is the way that the Mamelodi Sundowns stopper has shaped and boosted the reputation of his homeland in the PSL.
The Cranes Number One was the final player to win the discontinued Africa-based Player of the Year award, following his exploits during Downs’ Caf Champions League-winning campaign, and is an influential figure in the national team camp.
His duels with Mohamed Salah at the 2017 Nations Cup and during the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign brought out the best in the keeper, and he’ll need to be on top form once again if Uganda are to escape from Group A.
A Ligue 1 regular with Stade de Reims this term, Mendy is another keeper who comes into his own in the big games—notably helping the former European Cup finalists to clean sheets against Marseille, Monaco and Bordeaux away.
He also impressed as Paris Saint-Germain were defeated on the final day.
He’s the natural choice to replace injured Khadim N’Diaye between the sticks—in truth, he should have replaced him earlier—and will enjoy the protection of two excellent centre-backs in Kalidou Koulibaly and Salif Sane.
The giant keeper has been linked with a move to OM and West Ham United over the last 12 months.
Onana’s reputation has swelled over the last 12 months, during which time he helped Ajax reach the Champions League semi-final—where they were unfortunate to have fallen to Tottenham Hotspur—and complete a league-and-cup double domestically.
The arrival of Clarence Seedorf has prompted a change between the sticks for Cameroon, with Onana replacing his cousin Fabrice Ondoa between the sticks.
The keeper is the latest in a long line of excellent Cameroonian stoppers and should continue to show during the Afcon that rumours of a return to Barcelona are not far-fetched.