The Most Memorable AFCON Moments of All Time

Ben Wylie

Zambia run to the 1994 Final (1994)

In a truly horrific accident, whilst travelling to face Senegal in a World Cup qualifier, the plane carrying the Zambian nation team crashed into the Atlantic Ocean tragically killing all 25 passengers and five crew members on board. This was a dark day in the nation’s history, and is something that will live on in Zambia’s memories forever.

Less than a year later, a rebuilt nation team had an unexpected AFCON run, seeing off Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone in the group stages before beating Senegal and Mali in the knockout rounds. Ultimately, Zambia were defeated in the final by Nigeria, however, many remember that tournament for the tenacity and resilience shown by an inspiring Zambian side.

Madagascar vs Nigeria (2019)

Perhaps most famed for a film about talking zoo animals, Madagascar shocked the footballing world in their debut AFCON campaign in 2019. Ranked 108th in the FIFA world standings prior to the tournament, Madagascar went unbeaten in a group with Guinea, Burundi, and Nigeria, although the true shock came when they met the latter in the final group stage.

Goals from Lalina Nomenjanahary and Carolus Andriamatsinoro saw Madagascar beat the Super Eagles 2-0 despite sitting 65 places below them in the world rankings and despite being knocked out in the quarter-finals at the hands of Tunisia, in beating Nigeria, Madagascar delivered one of the biggest upsets in AFCON history.

Ivory Coast vs Nigeria (2013)

Ivory Coast met Nigeria in the quarter-finals of the 2013 AFCON in a match that will be remembered for not one, but two spectacular goals. Competition top scorer Emmanuel Emineke broke the deadlock with a stunning long ranch effort following a short free-kick that looked to be one of the goals of the tournament.

The Elephants then equalised shortly after the break before an exquisite solo goal by Sunday Mba booked Nigeria their place in the semi-finals. Picking the ball up in his own half, the Nigerian carried the ball to the 18-yard box before expertly cutting by a defender and putting the ball well out of the keeper's reach into the top left corner.

Even now, both these goals are considered amongst the competition's best, especially by those from Nigeria as the Super Eagles went on to lift the trophy that year.

Zambia wins 2012 AFCON (2012)

Another mention for Zambia, however in a list of best AFCON moments, it seems unjust to leave out the nation's sole triumph, especially with it coming in such dramatic fashion. Zambia topped a group with Guinea, Libya and Senegal before easing past Sudan in a 3-0 win to set up a historic semi-final with Ghana. Prior to the tournament, Ghana were amongst the favorites whilst Zambia, 71st in the FIFA world rankings, had already surpassed most people’s expectations by getting out the group.

Substitute Emmanuel Mayuka scored the only goal late on as the Chipolopolo’s progressed to the final to face an Ivory Coast side with the likes of Didier Drogba, Gervinho, and Yaya and Kolo Toure all in their primes. Drogba squandered the best chance of the match, missing a penalty late on before the game entered extra time and after 120 minutes of football, the AFCON champions were to be decided on penalties. In fitting circumstances, the penalty shootout was dramatic, eventually seeing Zambia come away 8-7 winners securing their only AFCON title to date.

Egypt win 3 in a row (2010)

In the illustrious history of the AFCON, only three teams have reclaimed the accolade, with Egypt, Cameron, and Ghana all winning the tournament back-to-back. Victorious in the previous two, Egypt entered the 2010 AFCON knowing triumph would be record-breaking, seeing them become the only 3-time consecutive winners of the cup.

In a near-perfect run, Egypt conceded just two goals and won all but one game in 90 minutes, lifting the historic trophy by beating Ghana in the final thanks to an 85th-minute goal by substitute Gedo, a goal that saw the player crowned the competitions top scorer.

Algeria Win (2019)

Heading into the 2019 AFCON, eventual winners Algeria were fighting for more than just football success, with political injustices fuelling the nation ahead of the tournament. Long-standing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to run for a fifth term in office was not well received, as the dictator had not been seen in public in over a year and had not spoken to the nation since 2012. Tens of thousands took to the streets to protest in the capital, an act that broke state law under Bouteflika’s reign and sparked protests across the nation.

Algerians protested weekly, eventually succeeding in overthrowing their president with the 2019 AFCON on the horizon. That summer, Algeria lifted the title for the first time in 30 years and in doing so helped to unite what was previously a broken nation.

Although a spectacular sporting achievement, this victory will be remembered for the immense political and social influences it yielded, helping to inspire and bring together the people of Algeria.


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