AFCON: Unwatchable Final, but worthy Champion

Algeria’s goal came in the second minute. The remaining 88 minutes saw the Algerians defend endlessly against Senegalese attacks. It was frustrating and almost unwatchable.

In a tournament full of surprises, the final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) was no different. Algeria edged Senegal 1-0 in a scrappy final– arguably the most disappointing encounter of the tournament – on Friday 19 July 2019.

AFCON Finals
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Royal Blue Mersey

Less than two minutes into the final against Senegal, Algeria forward Baghdad Bounedjah latched onto Riyad Mahrez's through ball, dodged and dribbled to the top of the area and fired at goal.Senegal centre-back Salif Sané blocked, but the ball ricocheted off his extended foot and spun high into the air. It stayed aloft for what seemed like an eternity and, on its way down, somehow touched the underside of the crossbar and slid into the net, as Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis watched.

AFCON Final 2019
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CBS Sports

That was Algeria’s only shot at goal in the match. The remaining 88 minutes of the final saw Djamel Belmadi's Les Fennecs or‘Desert Foxes’defend endlessly, till the final whistle blew.It was frustrating and almost unwatchable.

AFCON
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The National

Though Senegal’s Liverpool star Sadio Mané and teammates attacked relentlessly, they could not score. At around the hour mark, Algerian midfielder Adlène Guedioura seemingly blocked Senegal forward Ismaïla Sarr’s cross with his arm. But the penalty initially awarded was cancelled after a VAR review. Aliou Cisse's Lions simply could not put the ball into the net, and Algeria clung to a barely deserved victory.

Footballer Sadio Mane
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The Sun

The Nigerian ‘Super Eagles’won third place for the eighth time with a 1-0 victory over ‘Carthage Eagles’ Tunisia, which had lost 0-1 to Senegal in the semi-final, thanks to an extra-time own goal. Nigeria scored the winner inside three minutes. Tunisia goal keeper Moez Ben Cherifia deflected the ball off his own defender Yassine Meriah, when OdionIghalo – the tournament's top scorer with five goals – tapped in.

Super Eagles - Nigeria national football team
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Daily Post Nigeria

This one terrible final does not define Algeria. The African champion won all three group matches, conceding no goals. It beat Senegal 1-0 in the group stage, hammered Guinea 3-0 in the round of 16, and edged past Ivory Coast on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the quarter-final. And then it won a truly magical semi-final against the Super Eagles.

The semi-final was tied 1-1 at the 90th minute.A William Troost-Ekong own goal gave Algeria the lead before OdionIghalo's penalty equalised. Nigeria was hoping to force the tiring Algeria squad into an additional 30 minutes of extra time. Unfortunately for them, after four minutes of stoppage time, Algeria’s Manchester City star,Riyad Mahrezcurleda free-kick into the top corner in the very last minute of the game to break Nigerian hearts.

Algeria won the Cup on foreign soil for the first time;its earlier 1990 triumph was on home turf.Senegal is Africa’s top FIFA-ranked team, but has never won AFCON. It’s going to have to wait…
 

AFCON Champions 2019
Image Courtesy:
Total Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2019