Goals are the finest highlights of any football competition and some of the greatest goals have been witnessed at the African Cup of Nations, AFCON. Today we look at the ten greatest goalscorers to have ever laced their boots at the biennial championships.
10: Mulamba Ndaye, 10 goals
In 1974, Mulamba played for Zaire at the African Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Against all odds, Zaire won the tournament. It was a feat that would not have been achieved without the irresistible Ndaye.
In Egypt he scored all the nine goals that Zaire recorded (a feat that remains a record), four of which came in the final against Zambia as Mulamba was named Player of the Tournament.
On his return home with the victorious national team, Mulamba was awarded a national honour, the National Order of the Leopard by President Mobutu Sese Seko.
9: Francileudo Santos, 10 goals
Santos was born in Brazil but he chose to represent Tunisia at international level, a decision that brought him fame and helped Tunisia win her first and only AFCON trophy to date.
The tricky goal-poacher fired in 22 goals in 40 games (more than a goal every other game) for his adopted country with ten of those goals coming at the AFCON finals.
Ironically, Santos was granted Tunisian citizenship, just days before the 2004 African Nations Cup. He would fire the hosts to that title, finishing joint top scorer.
8: Kalusha Bwalya, 10 goals
Talking about brilliant left footers, Africa’s most famous “Number 11” was as good as they get.
Regarded as the greatest Zambian footballer of all time, Kalusha Bwalya scored goals with incredible regularity that by the time he drew curtain on an amazing career in 2004, he had netted a whopping 100 goals in only 147 international matches.
His 10 goals unfortunately could not win the AFCON trophy for Zambia, with the Chipolopolo ending as runners-up to Nigeria in 1994 and finishing in 3rd place at the next edition of the Africa Cup in South Africa in 1996, with Kalusha jointly winning the Golden Boot Award as the top-scorer.
7: Patrick Mboma, 11 goals
Mboma’s was one of the sweetest left feet the AFCON has ever seen. With him, fans could expect a long distance thunderbolt-goal from nowhere at any second.
While super stars like Austin Okocha and Samuel Osei Kuffour looked on enviously, Patrick was deservedly named African Footballer of the Year for his efforts in 2000, with his goals helping Cameroon to the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics and victories at the 2000 African Nations Cup.
Overall, he managed 11 goals and two title triumphs at the AFCON.
6: Hossam Hassan, 11 goals
Egypt’s Hossam Hassan is his country’s all-time top scorer with 68 goals in 176 appearances.
Eleven of those goals were banged in at the biggest stage on the continent. It took Hassan seven Africa Cup of Nations tournaments appearances to claim his eleven goals but his longevity and at that level was even more admirable.
The man named as the Best African Footballer in the last 50 years scored the important goals that helped Egypt win the African Cup of Nations in 1986, 1998, and 2006.
5: Didier Drogba, 11 goals
For all his successes at club football, especially with Chelsea where the Blues’ fans voted him as the club’s greatest ever player, Drogba was not able to lead the Ivorian National Football team to an AFCON triumph.
However, ‘the Drog’ is his country’s all-time top scorer and his eleven AFCON goals were instrumental as the Ivory Coast reached the final of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006 and 2012, but were beaten on penalties on both occasions.
Drogba would certainly go down in history as one of Africa’s finest strikers ever.
4: Hassan El-Shazly, 12 goals
Even if the other Hassan is the more renown to this generation, it is El-Shazly who has got the most goals for Egypt at the African Cup of Nations.
At an impressive dozen strike, he’s been more prolific than the likes of Didier Drogba and Patrick Mboma at the tournament.
One of the finest Egyptian strikers ever, El-Shazly brought his fine form in the Egyptian Premier League, where he was top goalscorer for four different season, to the AFCON and managed six goals at the 1963 African Cup of Nations to go home with the top marksman award.
3: Rashidi Yekini, Nigeria, 13 goals
Rashidi Yekini got Nigeria’s first goal at the World Cup but it was at the Nations Cup that he truly devastated opposition defences, made his name a global icon and won the African Footballer of the Year Award.
With his goals, Yekini helped the Super Eagles win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations where he also topped the goal charts and was named best player of the tournament.
His 13 goals have ensured he will be the finest Nigerian to appear at the AFCON for yet a while.
2: Laurent Pokou, 14 goals
For so long, until a certain Samuel Eto’o tore the record books, Ivorian Laurent Pokou sat atop the log of the most prolific AFCON strikers ever.
Twice the highest goalscorer of the Africa Cup of Nations, scoring six goals in the 1968 tournament in Ethiopia and eight in the 1970 edition in Sudan, including five strikes in one match against Ethiopia, which Ivory Coast won 6-1, Pokou was the finest the continent had witnessed at the tourney.
1: Samuel Eto’o Fils, 18 goals
It is very fitting that the most decorated African player of all time, having won the African Player of the Year award a record four times, would also be the greatest AFCON goalscorer in history.
It would not surprise many who had seen the Cameroonian bang in the goals for Barcelona, Inter Milan, Chelsea, and, more recently, Everton over a decade-plus playing career. But to replicate such blistering form at the African scene, took a large slice of genius.
Four (4) goals in his maiden appearance in the tournament in 2000, one goal each in 2002 and 2004, five goals at the 2006 AFCON, and another five in 2008, enabled Eto’o to surpass Laurent Pokou’s 14 goals. Two more goals in the 2010 AFCON staged in Angola helped extend his tally to 18.
Samuel Eto’o Fils’ 18 goals in six African Cup Nations tournaments may take another generation to get scrubbed.