After twice being moved to a new scheduling spot, AFCON is finally up and running with the eyes of football fans around the world now trained on Cameroon and the 24 countries hoping to emerge victorious from the finals.
The hosts got the tournament off to a flying start with a 2-1 defeat of Burkino Faso and Cameroon are among the favourites to claim the trophy, along with the likes of Egypt and Ivory Coast as well as the 2019 winners, Algeria.
Recent AFCON finals have not always been a great spectacle. Indeed, dating back to 2006, just seven goals have been scored in the past eight finals of this prestigious tournament. Hopefully this year’s final will follow in the footsteps of these much more memorable showpiece clashes.
5 greatest AFCON finals of all time
2017: Cameroon 2-1 Egypt
This year’s hosts will be hoping to recapture the title they won five years ago, when Vincent Aboubakar – who netted two penalties against Burkina Faso – struck a late winning goal. Cameroon made a slow start to the final and Egypt took the lead thanks to Mohamed Elneny after 22 minutes, the Arsenal midfielder finishing well after being fed by Mohamed Salah.
Aboubakar, so often Cameroon’s talisman, had not been deemed fit enough to start the game but he was summoned as a half-time substitute, which proved to be a crucial decision. It was 1-1 when Cameroon levelled through another substitute, defender Nicolas Nkoulou getting up to head home a cross from Benjamin Moukandjo, who was named the final’s man of the match.
A frantic finale ensued and Cameroon claimed the cup with just two minutes to go. Aboubakar collected a long pass and lifted the ball over the Egyptian goalkeeper Ali Gabr before slotting in. Egypt protested that Aboubakar should have been penalised for a high boot but the goal stood, with the final ending in disarray as fighting broke out during the period of injury time at the end.
2000: Nigeria 2-2 Cameroon (Cameroon won 4–3 on penalties)
Hosts Nigeria were left heartbroken in the 2000 final as they lost to Cameroon in a shoot-out. Cameroon led 2-0 thanks to goals from Samuel Eto’o and Patrick Mboma, leaving Nigeria with a mountain to climb in front of 60,000 passionate supporters in Lagos.
Raphael Chukwu fired in just before the break to give Nigeria hope and their star man Jay-Jay Okocha levelled it up with an unbelievable strike a couple of minutes into the second half. Okocha chested the ball down fully 30 yards out and advanced to smash home an unstoppable strike, but with neither side able to find a winner the final was to be settled on penalties.
After Nwankwo Kanu and Victor Ikpeba missed, Rigobert Song converted the winning kick to secure victory in one of the best AFCON finals ever.
1974: Zaire 2-2 Zambia (Zaire won a replay 2-0)
In 1974, the final of the African Cup of Nations went to a replay for the very first time. Ndaye Mulamba has scored twice to down Egypt in the semi-final and the Zaire star man was at it again in the final, netting twice after Simeon Kaushi had struck first for Zambia.
Zaire were moments away from glory but Brighton Sinyangwe scored for Zambiright at the end of extra time to ensure a replay would be played a couple of days later. This time, Zaire would not be denied with Mulamba again their hero, scoring a goal in each half.
1972: Congo 3-2 Mali
Arguably the best of all AFCON finals came all the way back in 1972.
Moussa Diakhite put Mali ahead late in the first half, at which point there were few signs of the incredible drama that was to come after the break. A brace from Jean-Michel M’Bono within the space of three minutes turned the final around and put Congo in the box seat to claim its first AFCON crown.
Francois M’Pele, who later played for Paris Saint-Germain, added a third for Congo but Mali had hope of a fightback when Moussa Traore struck to cut the deficit to a single goal. Congo held on, though, to record one of the most remarkable victories in AFCON history.
1965: Ghana 3-2 Tunisia (AET)
Seven years previously, there was another five-goal thriller in the 1965 AFCON final when the hosts Tunisia were defeated by Ghana in extra time. Ghana were the defending champions and full of confidence having routed Ivory Coast 4-1 in the semi-final, with Frank Odoi then giving them the lead late in the first half of the final.
Abdelmajid Chetali levelled it up for Tunisia, who then took the lead through Tahar Chaibi to leave thousands of fans in Tunis hoping they could hold on to win the championship. But Ghana battled back and Osei Kofi’s third goal of the tournament took the final to extra time. Odoi then came up with the winner for Ghana, ensuring that they held on to their title.
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