Football Features

2021 Africa Cup of Nations: The best goalkeepers

By Harry Edwards

Published: 20:30, 2 January 2022 | Updated: 16:53, 6 January 2022

Fans of international football will be treated to a major tournament within the first weeks of 2022 as the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations gets underway.

Hosted by Cameroon, the Africa Cup of Nations kicks off on January 9 and runs until February 6 with the final at the Olembe Stadium in capital city Yaoundé. Algeria are the defending champions and will be looking to become the first team since Egypt in 2010 to win back-to-back Cup of Nations.

But they have tough opposition in the other 23 teams and there are a number of goalkeepers that will be looking to make their mark on the month-long competition.

Édouard Mendy (Senegal)

Club: Chelsea

International caps: 16

Just a few years ago Édouard Mendy wasn’t a household name outside of Rennes, and would have barely been known in Senegal with just a handful of caps before his move to Chelsea. But the Senegalese shot-stopper has shown his quality to a wider audience in his 18 months at Stamford Bridge, being heralded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world right now (though he was snubbed for the awards).

For Senegal, Mendy has kept nine clean sheets in his 16 international appearances so far and was integral in helping the nation qualify for this month’s tournament. Mendy played four of Senegal’s six group games as they finished the stage unbeaten, conceding just one goal. With Mendy between the sticks, Senegal won every game and had already secured their spot before he was rested for the final two matches.

Yassine Bounou (Morocco)

Club: Sevilla

International caps: 35

Morocco have two excellent goalkeeping options at the Cup of Nations but Sevilla’s Yassine Bounou is expected to be the No.1. The 30-year-old is once again in great form this season, keeping eight clean sheets in 16 La Liga games to help them jump to second in the table with the best defence in the Spanish top flight.

Bounou has been equally as good for Morocco helping to provide the basis of a solid defence on which the nation can build their team. Morocco conceded just one goal in qualifying for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, with Bounou keeping four clean sheets in his five appearances. The only player to beat Bounou was Central African Republic’s Louis Mafouta in a 4-1 win for Morocco.

André Onana (Cameroon)

Club: Ajax

International caps: 20

Andre Onana has played just four games for Cameroon since the start of 2020 but the Ajax goalkeeper will be their first choice for this tournament. After all, his absence from the team was purely down to a drugs ban for accidentally taking his wife’s medication rather than paracetamol for a headache. But Onana is one of the few people you could say have benefitted from the situation of the world right now as the postponement of the Africa Cup of Nations until January means that he is able to represent his country in the home tournament.

Onana, still only 25, was regarded as one of the better goalkeepers in Europe before his ban and was linked with a move back to Barcelona – though Inter Milan appears to be his next destination for when his Ajax contract is up in the summer. This season, Onana has had to watch on from the bench at Ajax, yet to retain his place as the club’s first-choice goalkeeper with just two appearances, and one clean sheet.

”Remko [Pasveer] is doing a fantastic job, that’s clear. He is perhaps the best goalkeeper in the Netherlands at the moment. But I wanted to see [on Wednesday] if we not only have a team, but also a selection,” Ajax manager Erik ten Hag said following Onana’s return to action against Besiktas last November.

“Onana is an important part of that, although he hasn’t played for a long time. He now has to gain rhythm within Ajax, within our way of playing.”

Hervé Koffi (Burkina Faso)

Club: RSC Charleroi

International caps: 38

Burkina Faso are back in the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time since 2017 and will be hoping to have a similar campaign to the one in 2013 when they reached the final. Although he played just two goals in qualifying, keeping two clean sheets, Herve Koffi is expected to be Burkina Faso’s first-choice goalkeeper for the tournament.

The 25-year-old has a pretty decent record for his national team when starting between the sticks, keeping 20 clean sheets in his 38 appearances, including three at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations when Burkina Faso finished third. Koffi currently plays his club football in Belgium with RSC Charleroi and goes into the Cup of Nations in good form, keeping seven clean sheets in 21 league appearances.

Raïs M’Bolhi (Algeria)

Club: Al-Ettifaq

International caps: 88

Raïs M’Bolhi was one of the heroes for Algeria at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and will be hoping he can have a similar impact this year. Playing every game in Egypt, M’Bolhi kept five clean sheets in seven matches including one in the final. He also saved a penalty in the shootout win over Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals and conceded just one goal from open play.

M’Bolhi’s defence was less secure in qualifying for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations but he did still keep two clean sheets and was also part of the Algeria side that won the Arab Cup just last month. The 35-year-old currently plays his club football in Saudi Arabia with Al-Ettifaq, who have been struggling this season, but he has still managed to keep four clean sheets. It is all about the Algerian performances for M’Bolhi though, so don’t count him out.

Honourable mentions

But that’s not all. Here are a few more names worth keeping an eye on.

Sylvain Gbohouo (Ivory Coast): The 33-year-old has made the No.1 shirt his own over the past seven or so years, and has kept 26 clean sheets in 59 appearances for Ivory Coast. If they are to go far in the tournament, they’ll want Gbohouo at his best to provide balance with the excellent attack.

Ali Ahamada (Comoros): Ali Ahamada doesn’t have a club right now, leaving Norwegian side Brann last year, but he is still expected to be between the sticks for Comoros in their first ever Africa Cup of Nations appearance. The 30-year-old kept three clean sheets in five appearances during qualifying.

Jean-Noël Amonome (Gabon): Gabon have a few goalkeepers from which to choose but it looks as though Jean-Noël Amonome will be their No.1, after playing their final three games of World Cup qualifying in 2021. In those three games, Amonome kept two clean sheets, to add to another in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying, only conceding from a penalty and an own goal.

Maduka Okoye (Nigeria): Nigeria’s attack is exciting but they also have a bright goalkeeper to protect them in Maduka Okoye. The 22-year-old has kept seven clean sheets in 13 appearances for Nigeria so far, including five in his past seven.