By Ekema Njoku .M.
Baghdad’s second-minute strike helped the Desert Foxes of Algeria to clinch the prestigious African Cup of Nations trophy, as they humbled the Terenga Lions of Senegal 1-0.
The final of Africa’s most prestigious tourney took place on Friday, July 19 in Cairo, Egypt.
Both nations were in their second-ever final of the AFCON, with Algeria grabbing the trophy in 1990, by defeating the super eagles of Nigeria, and had to wait for 29 years to get to a final, while Senegal was unlucky to have lost in the final on their home soil against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in 2002.
This was the second meeting of both sides in the competition. During the group stages, both teams clashed and it ended 1-0 courtesy a Youcef Belaili goal at the 49th minute of the encounter. With his key defender Kalidou Koulibaly, suspended, Coach Aliou Cisse opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation in this encounter, while his counterpart Coach Djamel Belmadi went in for a 4-1-4-1 formation.
The highly awaited 2019 final began at 8:00 pm Cameroon time. It was barely two minutes into the encounter that Ismael Bennacer found Baghdad Bounedjah, whose strike from the edge of the box was deflected by Salif Sane. This made Goalkeeper Alfred Gomis helpless as he saw his net welcome the ball.
Aliou Cisse and his foot soldiers headed by Captain Kouyate, went with all cylinders to grab a goal but failed to convert any of the chances they had from set-pieces.
The contest grew stiff and harder as the Desert Foxes remained solid from back to front not giving a chance to the West African boys to make a mockery of them in the end. The substitutions made by Aliou Cisse to get an equaliser proved futile as they yielded no fruits and by minute 94, it was Senegal 0-1 Algeria. Senegal will have to go home and restructure their side for 2021 in Cameroon.
Egypt is the first nation in Africa to host a 24 team AFCON. Algeria will be defending her title in 2021 as all eyes will be on Cameroon since complete pairings for qualifiers have been made public.