Final roundup of Total AFCON 2019
TOTAL AFCON 2019 ROUNDUP
On April 12, with the majestic pyramids of Giza providing a fitting backdrop, the groups were announced during the Total AFCON 2019 draw.
Ten weeks later, Egypt and Zimbabwe played the first match of the tournament in Cairo before 75,000 football fans. Hosts and pre-tournament favorites Egypt won that match 1-0 and set the ball rolling for what would turn out to be an exciting tournament with many twists and turns. The group stage had its own share of excellent matches, with the 24-team format providing teams with a greater chance of qualifying for the knockout stages.
Comebacks, upsets and pleasant surprises
DR Congo were one team that benefitted from the new format. They looked definitely out of the tournament with two defeats in two matches after losing 2-0 to Uganda and then Egypt. Elimination was on the horizon. Under the old format, it would have been impossible for the Leopards to qualify for the knockouts. But the extended format provided them with an outside chance. They took their chances and beat Zimbabwe 4-0 in their last match to make it to the next round. Unfortunately for them, the winning streak didn’t last very long and they lost to Madagascar on penalties in the round of 16.
Madagascar, playing in their very first AFCON, provided the tournament with the most unlikely success story. Even before their penalty shout-out win against DR Congo, Madagascar had made their voices heard—orchestrating the tournament’s first upset when they beat Nigeria 2-0 to top Group B. Ranked 108th in the world, Madagascar’s run to the quarterfinals was totally unexpected and showed that all teams have their place at the Total AFCON.
Egypt and Morocco crash out in the round of 16
Hosts and seven-time champions Egypt were widely expected to go far in the tournament. After three comfortable wins in the group stage, they faced South Africa—who had scraped through to the final 16 as the fourth-best third-placed team. South Africa would overcome all odds to stun the Pharaohs 1-0 and dash the hopes of millions in the host country.
Morocco also fell in the round of 16 to Benin—who had qualified as one of the top third-placed teams—on penalties. Benin took the lead after 53 minutes but the Atlas Lions scored an equalizer in the 76th minute and would have won the match had they converted a stoppage-time penalty. Morocco missed it and Benin held on to force the match into a penalty shoot-out, which they would eventually win 4-1.
Hard-fought quarterfinals and semifinals
Algeria’s route to the quarterfinals was fairly straightforward but their route from the quarterfinals to the finals was anything but easy. In the quarterfinals, they faced Ivory Coast, who would push Algeria to the limit. The match went to a penalty shootout after finishing 1-1 at the end of extra time. The penalty shootout was almost as close as the match itself—the Fennecs edging out the Elephants 4-3.
Nigeria had come from 1-2 down to beat Cameroon 3-2 in the round of 16. In the quarterfinals, the Super Eagles beat South Africa 2-1 with a winner in 89th minute. The tables would turn in the semifinals where Algeria would score in stoppage time (90+5’) to beat Nigeria 2-1.
Senegal and Tunisia faced off in the semi-finals after 1-0 and 3-0 wins in the quarterfinals, respectively. Their semi-final match ended 0-0 after 90 minutes and would only be decided when Tunisia netted an own goal in the 100th minute.
Algeria face the Lions of Teranga in the final
After four weeks of excitement, it would all come down to a single deflected goal from Algeria, 90 seconds after kick-off. But, in the end, that was all that mattered as the Fennecs won their second AFCON title. They can be proud of their performance in the tournament—they were excellent in the run up to the quarters and extremely resilient in the later stages, scoring 13 goals and only conceding two throughout the tournament.
Algeria’s outstanding goalkeeper, Raïs M'Bolhi, who conceded only two goals in seven matches, was named the Total Man of Match for the final against Senegal and the best goalkeeper of the tournament. Meanwhile the 21-yr old Ismaël Bennacer was named the Total Man of the Competition and the best young player.
|Total Man of the Competition
|Total Man of the Match pour la finale
|Matches||Teams||Goals scored @
|Title for Algeria|