As the 32nd edition of Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) curtains sink down, North Africans, Algeria have been crowned the kings of football in Africa after they beat Senegal 1-0 in the final on Friday.
The Desert Foxes were overally the best side in the hotly contested tournament although Senegal proved to be a formidable force all along in the competition.
The two sides met twice in the just concluded tournament; first in the group stage and second in the finals where the Lions of Teranga lost in both matches by a solitary goal.
Now, here is how the desert foxes marched to the final to clinch the crown; The Riyad Mahrez led side started off their journey with a 2-0 victory against Kenya on 23rd June.
Goals from final game goal-scorer, Baghdad Bounedjah in the 34th and a second one from the captain and Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez in the 43rd minute gave the Desert Foxes their first win of the competition against Kenya.
On the 27th June they got their biggest test against Africa’s top-ranked side, Senegal but they saw off the Sadio Mane led Lions of Teranga by a solitary goal.
Despite holding the ball and showcasing a good football in the first half, the Senegalese were caught off-guard in the early minutes of the second half when Youcef Belaili found the back of the in the 49th minute to bag the three points for the Lions of Teranga.
With six points, the desert foxes were guaranteed for a position in the last sixteen and a victory from Tanzania whom they were meeting in their last Group match was almost guaranteed.
On 1st July, The Desert foxes beat the Emmanuel Amunike coached boys of Taifa Stars in a match that had three goals all coming in the first half spelling the end of the coach’s association with Tanzania.
Veteran striker Islam Slimani opened the scores in the 34th minute before Napoli midfielder, Adam Ounas scored a brace for the Algerians in the 39th and 45+1 minutes. Their third victory without conceding a goal was speaking volumes and instilling fear in the opponents.
In the round of sixteen, they were handed Guinea who were without Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita who had his injury rekindled in the group stages.
Their class continued against the Guinea men whom they crashed 3-0 with goals from Youcef Belaili in the 24th minute, a second one from the captain, Riyad Mahrez in the 57th minute while Ounas made it 3-0 in the 82nd minute.
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Their fourth victory send them to the quarter-finals against one of Africa’s best side, Nigeria.
The clash between the two sides was one of the best in the tournament where Algeria got the first goal in the first half courtesy of an own goal.
The pressure from the Algerians caused a stir in the Nigerians goal-area forcing an own goal in the 40th minute from William EKong.
But the Nigerians woke up in the second half with their efforts getting rewarded in the 72nd minute as Odion Ighalo struck to bring the two sides at par.
But that was not done although the two sides looked set and ready to go for the additional time yet that was far from coming.
A foul in the 95th minute from the Nigerians is a thing they will always remember as it denied them entry to the finals.
It resulted in a free-kick that changed the game as Mahrez was not ready to disappoint as he curved the strike over the Super Eagles wall right to the far corner of the net.
Having booked a ticket to the finals, the heavily contested one with every side taking their best of chances, the Algerians got their first goal, the fastest of the tournament after Baghdad Bounedjah’s strike was deflected to the back of the net which stood out throughout the match.
It was a big moment for the Algerians after a long 29 years of waiting amid political tensions in their countries that have been neutralized by the victory.