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25 Jan 2008 11:11
The Africa Cup of Nations is well under way in Ghana and the continental showpiece has already showcased its sparkling talent and delivered a number of scintillating goals. Africa’s greatest goal scorers have for a long time graced some of the world’s most famous leagues.
Here are six of the best.
1) Eusebio (Mozambique)
It would have been a crime for this exquisite talent not to play international football—and to do so he had no choice but to play for Portugal, his native Mozambique not gaining independence until 1975, by which time Eusebio was 33.
Like his fellow Mozambican Mario Coluna, Eusebio was a star for Benfica and Portugal throughout the 1960s, winning the Golden Boot at the 1966 World Cup and scoring the two goals that gave Benfica the 1962 European Cup. Until Pauleta broke his record recently, Eusebio was Portugal’s all-time top scorer, hitting 41 in 64 games. For Benfica he struck an astonishing 727 goals in 715 matches.
2) Rabah Madjer (Algeria)
Best remembered in the United Kingdom for scoring the opener in Algeria’s sensational win over West Germany at the 1982 World Cup, that was just one of the 40 goals he hit in 87 appearances for his country. He was also the star of the Porto team that won the 1987 European Cup, his outrageous back-heeled winner in the final against Bayern Munich typifying his irrepressible brilliance. The following season AC Milan had a Â£4-million bid for him turned down—had it gone through Madjer would have been more expensive than Gary Lineker, Mark Hughes and Marco Van Basten.
3) Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon)
The man who would three times become African Footballer of the Year (so far) made his international debut at the age of 15 and, at 17, was the youngest player at the 1998 World Cup. Two years later he starred as Cameroon won the Africa Cup of Nations and Olympic gold.
He then helped the Indomitable Lions retain their continental crown in 2002. But more than those displays, it was his prolific form for Mallorca that convinced Barcelona to pay â,¬24-million for him in 2004—they won the next two titles as well as the 2006 Champions League, of which Eto’o was named player of the tournament.
4) Abedi Pelé (Ghana)
His darting runs and intelligent passing and shooting made him an integral part of the finest Marseille team in history, who Pelé helped to four French league titles and two European Cup finals, winning it in 1993. He captained Ghana for six years and was outstanding in the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations until a yellow card in the semifinal ruled him out of the final—which the Black Stars then lost on penalties.
5) George Weah (Liberia)
ArsÃ¨ne Wenger brought Weah from Tonnere Yaoundé to Monaco in 1988 and even now says the Liberian’s purchase is the one of which he’s most proud. After winning the French Cup with the principality he went on to become the explosive yet elegant fulcrum of the Paris Saint-Germain side that won the 1994 French league and reached three successive European semifinals.
With AC Milan he won Serie A twice and was voted European and World Footballer of the Year. He could have played for France but turned down repeated requests in order to represent Liberia, where he not only excelled on the pitch—leading them to an improbable qualification for the 1996 and 2002 Africa Cup of Nations and within a point of the 2002 World Cup finals—but also funded the FA from his own pocket.
6) Roger Milla (Cameroon)
Milla’s eminence springs mainly from his deeds at international level. He was voted African Footballer of the Year in 1976 and won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1984 and 1988. He was 30 when he appeared for Cameroon at Spain in 1982, where the Indomitable Lions narrowly failed to eliminate Italy.
At club level he enjoyed moderate success with Saint-Etienne after a peripatetic French league career and then retired in 1989. Yet a year later came his defining moment: Milla scored four goals at Italia 90 and was one of the tournament’s great successes. He also played at USA 94, scoring against Russia at the age of 42 to break his own record as the tournament’s oldest goal scorer.—Paul Doyle and Barney Ronay, Â
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