Sports Xtra

Summary Of Afcon 2019

Written by Abdul Mateen

Summary of Afcon 2019

The 32nd edition of Africa Cup of nations commenced on 21st of June and  ended on the 19th of July 2019. This edition was hosted by the seven times champions of the nations cup, the Pharaohs of Egypt.

For the first time in the history of the continental showpiece, 24 nations battled it out for the glittering Afcon trophy from the usual 16 nations from previous editions.

21 nations came through qualifying competitions while the host nation qualified automatically, Mauritania, Burundi and Madagascar were making their debuts in the tournament.

A total of 52 games were played in 6 venues across 4 cities. 102 goals were scored, an average of 1.96 goal per match.

Host nation Egypt started well with a win against Zimbabwe and    subsequently the rest of participating nations took center stage as the competition began to take shape.

At the end of the third round of play, 16  teams, along with the best third-place teams advanced to the knockout stage to compete in a single elimination style tournament.

Whereas Egypt, Ghana, Algeria, Madagascar, Morocco and Mali topped their respective groups.

The Runner-up spots went to Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Tunisia.

Third best place teams comprised of Guinea, South Africa, Dr. Congo and Benin.

Whilst Tanzania, Burundi, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe, Kenya , Namibia etc became the first casualties to exit the competition at end of the third round of play.

*Knockout Stage*

Knockout stage game 1 saw under dogs (Benin) suprise tournament favorites (Morocco) in a game that was settled via penaltys. Infact, Ziyech did his best Asamoah Gyan impression by striking his penalty against the post with arguably the last kick of the game in normal time. The Black Stars(Ghana) suffered similar pain in the hands of the Carthage Eagles(Tunisia) whiles host and win candidates (Egypt) with the might of Salah succumbed to the counterattacking style of  play mixed with courage from Stuart Baxters Bafana Bafana in the dying minutes of the game that saw them crashing out surprisingly. In a game dubbed "the final before final"and arguably the most thrilling game of AFCON 2019,defending champions, The indomitable lions of Cameroon failed to roar and devour the Super Eagles of Nigeria thus bowing out in similar fashion. CAF President Ahmad's debutants Madagascar proved that topping group B was no fluke by putting Dr Congo to the sword. In the end African football power houses in the ilk of Ghana, Egypt, Morocco and  Cameroon joined the likes of Uganda, Mali and DR. Congo in parking home.

*Quarter-final stage*

Quarter-finals was keenly contested by 8 teams, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal,Algeria, Tunisia, South Africa and Benin. For the first time in the history of the nations cup, Video Assistant Refree Technology (VAR) was introduced at this stage of the competition to enhance transparency and fair play. Despite the VAR concept being heavily criticized, It gave lifeline to teams like Nigeria and Ivory Coast. At the end of the quarter-finals Senegal,Algeria,Nigeria and Tunisia came out unscathed thus booking a place in the semi-final.

24 had been reduced drastically to just 4 nations as The Teranga Lions (Senegal) faced veteran manager Alain Giress' Tunisia. The game was characterized by penalty misses courtesy both teams.However Aliu Cisse's Senegal found a way to book their place in the final by hitting the back of the net in extra time final.The 2nd game featuring Algeria and  Nigeria lived up to its billing as a top game. A match destined for extra-time was decided by Manchester City's  Riyad Mahrez's brilliance in a dead ball situation. A goal in the 94th minute that broke Nigerian hearts,lifted Algerian souls and booked a place in the final for the desert foxes after a colossal 29-year wait.

*3rd Place Play-Off*

Nigeria beat Tunisia by a goal to nil to be declared bronze medalists in the third place game.

The final Afcon game was played at Cairo International Stadium, Senegal up against Algeria, Coach Cisse vrs Coach Belmadi.Both childhood friends born a day apart scheming to end their country's long wait for nations cup glory. In a case of sheer luck or pure determination Bounedjah's shot deflected off a Senegalese defender into the net in the 2nd minute. This proved to be the only goal of a rather drab final game.

The final whistle sparked scenes of celebration that will forever be etched into Algeria Football archives– and which culminated in Rayid Mahrez hoisting the grand trophy aloft and at this moment a new breed of Africa legends were made in Egypt .

 *CAF Awards and Prizes*

 Champions(Algeria) Gold plus $4.5m

Runners up( Senegal)Silver plus $2.5m

Semi-Finalists(Nigeria)Bronze plus $2m

 Golden boot-Odion Ighalo(Nigeria) 5 goals

 Player of the tournament-Ismael Bennacer(Algeria)

 Golden Gloves- Rais Mbolhi( Algeria)