Algeria crowned champions of Africa for a second time
Baghdad Bounedjah scores only goal as they beat Senegal in final
Madagascar make stunning debut, while Egypt disappoint
Algeria are the new kings of African football. After missing out on the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, the Desert Foxes restored their reputation on the international scene with victory over Senegal in the final of the 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Cairo on Friday.
Twenty-nine years after winning their first continental title, Algeria have returned to the African throne. Their long-awaited triumph brings an end to a lengthy spell in the wilderness in which they struggled to make an impact in the Cup of Nations, either failing to qualify for the competition altogether or going out in the group phase or quarter-finals. Their only notable achievement in that time was fourth place in 2010.
The Algerians barely put a foot wrong in Egypt, however. After winning Group C with maximum points from their three games and no goals conceded, they beat Guinea 3-0 in the last 16 before dumping Côte d’Ivoire out of the competition on penalties. Riyad Mahrez's sublime stoppage-time free-kick gave the Desert Foxes a 2-1 win over Nigeria in the semis, while Baghdad Bounedjah’s early deflected strike was enough to secure victory for Djamel Belmadi’s men against Senegal in the final.
Also drawn in Group C, Senegal went down 1-0 to the eventual champions but won their other two matches to take second place. After defeat to Algeria in the groups, they went on to win all their knockout ties 1-0, defeating Uganda in the last 16, Benin in the quarter-finals, and Tunisia after extra time in the semis.
Sadly for Aliou Cisse’s charges, their dream of lifting the trophy for the first time was shattered by Algeria and their keeper Rais M’Bolhi, who dealt with everything the Lions of Teranga had to throw at him.
Nigeria gained consolation for their unfortunate semi-final defeat thanks to an early Odion Ighalo goal in the third-place play-off against Tunisia. The Super Eagles had struggled to find momentum earlier in the tournament, scraping through from Group B and then having to dig deep to make the semis, where they nevertheless pushed the eventual champions all the way.
Making their first ever appearance in the competition, Madagascar exceeded expectations by going all the way to the last eight, where they went down 3-0 to Tunisia. Playing a free-flowing game, the Barea beat Nigeria 2-0 en route to topping Group B, and then got the better of Congo DR in a last-16 thriller, winning 4-2 on penalties after a pulsating 2-2 draw after extra time.
July 19, 2019 - Cairo, Algeria, Egypt - Islam Slimani of Algeria with the trophy after the Final of 2019 African Cup of Nations match between Algeria and Senegal at the Cairo International Stadium in Cairo, Egypt on July 19, 2019. Algeria v Senegal - Final of 2019 African Cup of Nations PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY - ZUMAn230 20190719\_zaa\_n230_193 Copyright: xUlrikxPedersenx
(190720) -- CAIRO, July 20, 2019 (Xinhua) -- Algeria s Baghdad Bounedjah (L) and Youcef Belaili celebrate with the trophy after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final match between Senegal and Algeria in Cairo, Egypt on July 19, 2019. Algeria won 1-0 and claimed the title. (Xinhua Ahmed Gomaa) (SP)EGYPT-CAIRO-SOCCER-AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS-FINAL-SENEGAL VS ALGERIA PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxCHN
After chalking up three wins out of three in Group A, all without conceding a goal, hosts Egypt were brought straight back down to earth in the Round of 16 by a South Africa side that only reached the knockout phase as one of the best third-placed sides. It was an especially cruel blow for the most successful nation in the history of the competition, who had designs on lifting the trophy for an eighth time, in front of their own fans.