From Amuneke to Gyan: Who are Africa’s true big game players?

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Which of the continent’s stars did some of their best work on the biggest occasions?

Didier Drogba
There haven’t been too many occasions in history when a player has dragged a team to the European title more single-handedly than Drogba in 2012.

The towering Ivorian not only scored a late equaliser against Bayern Munich in the final at the Allianz Arena, but he also stepped up to score the decisive penalty in the shootout as Chelsea got their hands on a maiden Champions League.

Beyond that sublime performance, Drogba also scored in four FA Cup finals—the only player in the history of the world’s oldest club competition to do so.

Mohamed Aboutrika

Arguably the greatest player never to win the African Footballer of the Year award, Aboutrika demonstrated his quality on the big occasion with two delicious assists against Brazil in the 2009 Confederations Cup, as Egypt were defeated 4-3.

That was the closest he ever got to testing himself on the grandest stage, but did win two African titles with the Pharaohs—in 2006 and 2008.

He missed the 2010 success due to injury, but came alive in the latter stages of the earlier successes.

In ’06, he scored twice in the group stage and then netted the decisive penalty in the shootout, before netting the only goal of the final in ’08 as Cameroon were defeated 1-0 in Accra.

Rabah Madjer

While other players have scored more goals in the Champions League—and won more titles—few have played such a major role in a club’s success than Madjer in 1987.

At the time, FC Porto had never won the European Cup, and were outsiders against a Bayern Munich side containing Andreas Brehme and Lothaur Matthaus among others.

1-0 down with 13 minutes on the clock, Madjer made his unforgettable intervention, finding space inside the six-yard box, and elegantly flicking the ball into the back of the net with an insouciant backheel.

Porto would go on to win 2-1, as Madjer became the first Arabic player to win the big one.

Emmanuel Amuneke

Amuneke was at the heart of the greatest achievements of Nigeria’s Golden Generation of 1994, and doesn’t get the credit he deserves for the part he played in those magnificent achievements.

In the Nations Cup final—Nigeria’s first victory since 1980—Amuneke scored twice as Zambia were defeated 2-1.

He also, notably, netted the winner in the 1996 Olympic final against Argentina as the Dream Team ran out 3-2 winners in Athens.

Two years earlier, Amuneke had also netted on Nigeria’s debut World Cup performance—that unforgettable 3-0 victory over Bulgaria in Dallas.

It was another sensational performance from the wideman, who was duly snapped up by Barcelona in ’96.

Samuel Eto’o

Even overlooking the fact that he’s the all-time top scorer in the Africa Cup of Nations, Eto’o’s achievements in the Champions League alone ensure he makes this list.

The Cameroon legend is the 23rd highest scorer ever in the Champions League—the only African player inside the top 50—and the only African to have netted in two finals.

Eto’o’s won the title three times, twice with Barcelona and once with Internazionale, and was Man of the Match in the 2006 final.

Asamoah Gyan

As Africa’s all-time top scorer in the World Cup, Gyan has already demonstrated that he’s a man for the big occasion, and clearly thrives on the grandest stage of all.

Of course, he missed the infamous penalty against Uruguay in 2010, but the Black Stars wouldn’t have got to that point without the striker.

He netted a late winner against Serbia, an equaliser against Australia, and an extra-time winner against the United States as Ghana became only the third African nation to reach the quarter-finals.

In 2006, he scored the West Africans’ first ever World Cup goal at the tournament—inside the first two minutes against the Czech Republic—and also netted the winner in Al Ain’s President’s Cup success over Al Ahli in 2014.