The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations almost certainly won’t be remembered for being the best or most dramatic edition of it that we’ve ever seen, but in many ways, it doesn’t really need to be. It’s all about inspiring a generation and looking forward to the future, as African football attempts to move towards a more positive tomorrow.
As reported by BBC and The Guardian, the two nations that wound up contesting the Africa Cup of Nations final this year were Senegal and Algeria. With Algeria having already won a game between the two in the group stage it seemed like they would have the slight edge heading into this one, and in the end, they were able to live up to their potential as they defeated Senegal to claim their second AFCON title.
A huge triumph
Senegal, on the other hand, were left feeling pretty desolated at the conclusion of the match. Perhaps the worst part to take, for them, was that the one and only goal in the final came just two minutes into the game kicking off in Cairo. A freak effort from Baghdad Bounedjah deflected in off of Salif Sane, with the ball looping painfully over the goalkeeper’s head and into the back of the net.
Senegal had strong spells of possession, but for whatever reason, they just couldn’t translate that into any kind of success in front of goal. They were given a lifeline in the form of a penalty, but then just as quickly as it was given, it was taken away.
The full time whistle brought with it scenes of great celebration in Algiers, Paris and in various other locations around the world, as Algeria celebrated being recognised as the pinnacle of African football once again.
“Without the players I am nothing,” said Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi. “They are the main ones. I suppose the staff played its part in guiding the players but they applied the instructions incredibly well.”
Back at the top
In terms of historic victories within the ranks of Algerian football, this is right up there with the best of them. Algeria were the most consistent team throughout the core of the tournament, never allowing themselves to get distracted from the task at hand. At times it looked like they were struggling to really hit that next level, but much like France in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, they hit that next level when it mattered the most.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the final, at least as far as Premier League fans are concerned, was the lack of any real ‘moments’ from Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez. These were the two big dogs in the yard and there’s no way of getting around that, so at the very least, we expected to see them shine through and be the difference makers.
In the end, though, it was much more of a team effort on both sides of the ball, which was probably a good thing for the future of the African game.