Top five best AFCON finals of all time
Nigeria and Ivory Coast will contest AFCON 2023 final
The African Cup of Nations, popularly known as AFCON, is the most prestigious football tournament on African soil. Players competing at this level fight for the title of being crowned the kings of African football for the next two years. The tournament has been a grand stage in the talent identification of local and internationally based-African players. The zealous rivalries of the AFCON nations monumentally flaunt the best talent both at an individual level and within the team bringing out the magic of football, especially on the African field.
While recent finals have often been tight and low-scoring affairs, there have been some spectacular showdowns over the years that have captured the imagination of fans worldwide. There have been some truly memorable, crazy and controversial games down the years. Let’s travel down memory lane and revisit the top five best AFCON Finals in history:
5. Cameroon 2-1 Egypt – 2017
Egypt started the final strongly and took a 1–0 lead through Mohamed Elneny after 22 minutes. Cameroon had more possession than Egypt in the first half, but their attack lacked potency, and Egypt led at halftime. Cameroon equalised after 59 minutes, Egypt were unable to adjust, and Cameroon continued to have the better chances, eventually scoring again two minutes before the end, through Vincent Aboubakar, to record a 2–1 win.
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. 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.
4. Nigeria 2-2 Cameroon (3-4 on Penalties) – 2000
Hosts Nigeria were left heartbroken in the 2000 final as they lost to Cameroon in a shoot-out. This final was a rollercoaster of emotions. 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. The match went to penalties, where Cameroon emerged victorious, breaking Nigerian hearts.
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3. Ivory Coast 0-0 Ghana (9-8 on Penalties) – 2015
In 2015, the Ivorians came into this final with the memory of their loss in 2012 against Zambia. The 90-minute regular time ended goalless, and extra time later turned to a head-to-head finish at penalty kicks. Unfortunately, the Ivorians started on a weak foot and missed their first two kicks. On the other side, the Ghanaians appeared better prepared and converted their first two. But the tables turned when Ivory Coast scored their third and fourth kick contrary to Ghana missing their third and fourth, making the tie level again on penalties.
Ghana’s goalkeeper, Brimah Razak, stepped up for his kick and missed against Ivory Coast’s, Boubacar “Copa” Barry, who read it well and made the save. Barry then stepped up and slotted the ball in to win for the Ivorians.
2. Congo 3-2 Mali – 1972
Regarded by many as the best AFCON final, this match had it all: comebacks, drama, and a showcase of attacking football. The Congolese team with a more direct attack, constantly applied the use of the long ball to get into attacking areas while their Malian opposition played with a little bit more flair, utilizing a passing game to outwit their opponents.
The Malian team was first to break the deadlock with a goal from Moussa Diakite. Congo came from behind to secure their first AFCON title, overcoming a resilient Mali side in a thrilling encounter.
1. Ghana 3-2 Tunisia (AET) – 1965
Ghana defended their title in a final filled with twists and turns. Ghana were the defending champions and full of confidence having routed Ivory Coast 4-1 in the semi-final. Abdelmajid Chetali levelled it up for Tunisia, who then took the lead through Tahar Chaibi to leave thousands of fans in Tunisia hoping they could hold on to win the championship. Ghana fought back to take the match to extra time, where Frank Odoi’s winner ensured they retained the AFCON crown.
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