Baghdad Bounedjah’s second minute strike was enough for Algeria to beat Senegal 1-0 in the African Cup of Nations Final, held in Cairo, Egypt, and give the Algerians their first African Champions status since 1990, when they beat Nigeria by the same scoreline.
In a dour final, Algeria scored with their first – and last – attempt on target. Bounedjah (above) picked the ball after Chekou Kouyate had missed his attempted tackle on the left, drifted in and struck a shot that came off Salif Sane, the man coming in for the suspended Koulibaly. The ball took a punishing dip beyond the keeper into the net to give Algeria the lead – and one they would not relinquish.
Senegal, chasing their first ever African Cup of Nations title, were awarded a penalty in the 60 minute mark, when the referee deemed that Djamel Benlamri had handled an attempted cross in the box by Ismaila Sarr. However, after a VAR review, the decision was overturned and possession was given back to Algeria.
Senegal, who had needed extra time to beat Tunisia in the semi-finals, continued to press Algeria in search of the equaliser. But the Algerians were well organised and defended stoutly – and threatened to extend their lead on the counter attack as the Senegalese threw more into attack as the game went on. But there were no further tallies to the score and as the final whistle sounded, the Algerian players and bench erupted as they won the 2019 title.
In the third and fourth placed play off, Odion Ighalo’s strike (above), his fifth of the tournament – enough to make him the tournament high scorer – was enough for Nigeria to claim third place, consigning Tunisia to fourth.
Algeria would end up winning the tournament unbeaten – winning six and drawing one of their seven games – scoring 13 goals along the way and conceding just two.
Algerian midfielder, Ismael Bennacer (above), who currently plies his trade in Italy for Empoli, was named player of the tournament, with team mate Rais M’Bolhi awarded best goalkeeper.
Once again, VAR was in use at this tournament – but only from the Quarter Finals onwards – and was the focus of many of the controversial issues that sparked the ire of many teams. Kalidou Koulibaly missed the final for Senegal as he received a booking for a VAR awarded handball – the ball hitting his elbow but him facing away from the ball as he slid in to block a shot. In the semi finals alone, three penalties were awarded for handball via VAR – none were awarded for handball across the 44 group and round of 16 games combined.
The AFCON is held every two years, so Algeria will not have a long wait before defending their title. The 2021 renewal is in Cameroon, who will be looking to add to their five AFCON titles on home soil.
2019 AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS – TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT
- GK : M’Bolhi (Algeria)
- DF : Koulibaly (Senegal)
- DF : Meriah (Tunisia)
- DF : Gassama (Senegal)
- DF : Sabaly (Senegal)
- MF : Gueye (Senegal)
- MF : Guedioura (Algeria)
- MF : Bennacer (Algeria)
- FW : Ighalo (Nigeria)
- FW : Mane (Senegal)
- FW : Mahrez (Algeria)
AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS – TABLE OF WINNERS ACCORDING TO NUMBER OF TITLES HELD
- 7 -Egypt
- 5 – Cameroon
- 4 – Ghana
- 3 – Nigeria
- 2 – Algeria, DR Congo
- 1 – Zambia, Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco, Ethiopia, South Africa, Congo