Ghana winger Christian Atsu was named the best player for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations as a consolation after the Black Stars lost on penalties to Ivory Coast in the final on Sunday.
He also won the goal of the tournament award for his stunning quarter-final effort in Ghana’s 3-0 win against Guinea, and it was Atsu that came closest to scoring for the nation managed by Avram Grant during two hours of largely stale football in this year’s final in Bata.
The winger, who is currently on loan at Everton, picked the ball up in a central position 25 yards from goal and with little space to work with fired a wicked shot against the right-hand post.
That was midway through the first half and soon after, Atsu’s team-mate Andre Ayew hit the other post from a tight angle.
There were almost no clear chances to speak off after that as both sides feared overcommitting and leaving spaces that the pace of the likes of Atsu could exploit. However, one bursting second-half run from the 23-year-old finished with a low centre that was close to finding both Ayew and Asamoah Gyan.
Atsu saw an optimistic effort go wide in each half of extra-time before being replaced just before penalties were required to separate the sides – just as they had been when they met in the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations final.
And just as then, it was the Ivorians that emerged triumphant after the most dramatic of shoot-outs.
The Elephants trailed 2-0 but consecutive Ghana misses meant it went to sudden death at 3-3, and the next 14 penalties were scored, including one by our former player Salomon Kalou. Barry, the veteran Ivorian keeper, then saved from his opposite number Brimah Razak before firing in the 22nd and final penalty of the shoot-out, sending the Ivorians into ecstasy.
Atsu started each of Ghana’s six games and finished the tournament with two goals.